Local Leaders Join Forces to Improve Georgia’s Health and Combat Chronic Disease

November 17, 2014

Chronic diseases cost Georgia more than $40 billion dollars a year in avoidable health care costs and indirect social and economic impacts.  That’s a hefty price for many illnesses that continue to impact more Georgia residents every year.  

According to recent data, the leading causes of death in Georgia are chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma and stroke.  Nearly three-quarters of adults in Georgia are living with diabetes.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death and hospitalization in Georgia, followed closely by cancer. 

Tobacco use also has made severe impacts on the state’s health statistics as it contributes to the development of the five most common chronic conditions.  To further complicate matters, Georgia is also lagging in physical activity and nutrition as compared to other states in the nation.

To aid in addressing the burden of chronic diseases and their long-term health impacts, the Georgia Department of Public Health’s (DPH) Chronic Disease Prevention Section convened a new 24-member Chronic Disease Council last week at the Georgia Health Policy Center in Atlanta. 

Led by the Chronic Disease Prevention section director, Jean O’Connor, JD, M.P.H., DrPH, this multi-disciplinary group of health care stakeholders will influence the development and execution of statewide chronic disease prevention strategies.  The Council will also advise DPH in creating its forthcoming Five-Year Chronic Disease Strategic Plan, a long-term health promotion initiative that will address pressing public health priorities in Georgia through actions that contribute to improved health outcomes.

There was a clear theme throughout the council’s first meeting that better managing chronic diseases throughout Georgia will improve the state’s economy by reducing health care costs, fostering a more productive workforce, and creating healthier communities.

“While chronic diseases cause a variety of personal and economic impacts in our state, the good news is that they can be prevented or controlled by addressing community and individual risk factors,” said Dr. O’Connor. “Successfully combating these issues will require the right partnerships and I believe our new Chronic Disease Prevention Council will be vital in assisting the Department of Public Health to create programs that are both evidence-based and sustainable for all Georgia communities.”

Representing a diverse group of local leaders, the advisory board combines the expertise of professionals representing public and private agencies, educational institutions, advocacy groups, businesses and health care organizations.  Through its various members, DPH’s new Chronic Disease Council will be linked to local and national health organizations leading the charge in combating chronic diseases such as the Georgia Asthma Advisory Board, the Tobacco Use Prevention Advisory Council, the Cancer Consortium and the Georgia Oncology Research and Education Center (CORE).

“By engaging statewide leaders in the new Chronic Disease Council, the Georgia Department of Public Health is enhancing its capacity to control and prevent debilitating and costly diseases such as asthma, diabetes and cancer,” said Nancy Paris, president and chief executive officer of Georgia CORE.  “Because the Council provides an opportunity for the exchange of evidence and best practices among a diverse group of leaders, I anticipate bringing new ideas back to Georgia CORE to strengthen our programs.”

Learn more about DPH’s chronic disease prevention initiatives by visiting http://dph.georgia.gov/chronic-disease-prevention-section

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