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  • Survey: Most Older Americans Have 2 or More Chronic Health Conditions

    If you're an American adult 65 or older, it's more likely than not that you're being treated for at least 1 chronic health condition, and there's a good chance you have 4 or more, according to the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS).

    The new data, presented in a MEPS statistical brief, targets the prevalence and costs of treated chronic conditions among US adults in 2012. It shows that in the 65 and older demographic, it's less a matter of if an individual in this group has a chronic condition as it is a matter of how many he or she has: nearly 66% of adults 65 and up reported being treated for at least 2 chronic conditions. Just under 1 in 4—23.2%—report receiving treatment for 4 or more.

    Overall, 25.9% of all Americans have reported being treated for 2 or more chronic conditions, accounting for 57% of all health care expenditures. When you add in the 18.6% of Americans who have 1 treated chronic condition, the combined group accounts for 77.7% of US health care expenditures. In the report, "expenditures" is defined as "payments from all sources for hospital inpatient care, ambulatory care provided in offices and hospital outpatient departments, care provided in emergency departments, home health care, dental care, prescribed medicine purchases reported by respondents," and other services such as prescription glasses and medical supplies.

    Prevalence was linked to age—in the 18- 44-year-old group, 5.6% reported 2 or more chronic conditions. That rate rose to 31.7% in adults aged 45-64, and then more than doubled for the 65-and-older group.

    The chronic conditions targeted in the survey were hypertension, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiac arrhythmias, hyperlipidemia, stroke, arthritis, asthma, autism spectrum disorder, cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, dementia (including Alzheimer's and other senile dementias), depression, diabetes, hepatitis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), osteoporosis, schizophrenia, and substance abuse disorders.

    APTA highlights the role of the physical therapist and physical therapist assistant in the treatment of chronic conditions through its prevention, wellness, and disease management webpage. In addition, the 2015 House of Delegates adopted the position Health Priorities for Populations and Individuals (RC 11-15) "to guide [APTA's] work in the areas of prevention, wellness, fitness, health promotion, and management of disease and disability." The priorities include active living, injury prevention, and secondary prevention in chronic disease and disability management. The topic was also the subject of a popular presentation at the 2015 NEXT Conference and Exposition.

    Want to learn more? Attend "Exercise Prescription Principles for the Older Adult With Multiple Chronic Conditions," one of the presentations scheduled for the 2016 APTA Combined Sections Meeting, February 17-20 in Anaheim. Also available from the APTA Learning Center: Disease Management Models for Physical Therapists: Focus on Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease.