Nurses Leading the Fight Against Chronic Diseases: Are You Ready?

Monday, 9 November 2015

Letha M. Joseph, MSN, RN, AGPCNP-BC
VA Medical Center, Morrisville, NC, USA

     Chronic diseases are “diseases of long duration and slow progression” and World Health Organization (WHO) defines non communicable Chronic Diseases (NCD) as diseases, not typically caused by an infectious agent but from genetic susceptibility, lifestyle or environmental exposure.  According to WHO, NCDs contribute to 60% of global deaths & 43% of disease burden and by 2020, 73% of global deaths & 60 % of global disease burden will be due to NCDs. Cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes are common NCDs . There are four modifiable health risk behaviors which cause these NCDs. They are lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption.

      Nurses have an important role in primary, secondary and tertiary levels of prevention of NCDs. Primary prevention includes addressing the risk factors, increasing awareness and motivating for life style modification by encouraging realistic & affordable healthy choices. Nurses can be change agents and work towards policy revision at government level to make healthy choices easy choices. Secondary prevention focuses on early identification of the disease. Tertiary prevention focuses on appropriate disease management. Successful management of chronic diseases occurs only when prepared, informed, and motivated patients and families, health care teams and the community work together for a common goal. Nurses have a great role in this. As the most trusted profession, patients and families accept them and discuss their concerns. Patients live with these conditions and they need to modify their lifestyle to improve the management outcome. Nurses can very well work with patients to identify a working strategy for them. In a complex health care system, patients often get overwhelmed. Care coordination is another area where nurses have an important role.

     As NCDs continue to be a global concern, nurses are ready to be in forefront to make waves and lead the fight against this tsunami.