New federal money available to battle chronic diseases

Federal health officials are preparing to dole out $40 million to states for comprehensive initiatives that combat chronic diseases.

Part of the health care reform law, the new money is focused on reducing the nation’s five leading chronic disease-related causes of death and disability: heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and arthritis.

To win the money, the Department of Health and Human Services said states will have to “create or update statewide plans that demonstrate coordinated approaches” to tackling chronic disease, including diabetes, nutrition, physical activity, and obesity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will oversee the initiative and award the funds; the $40 million is for the first year of the effort, which is envisioned as a 3-year coordinated statewide chronic disease program.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC’s director, noted in the announcement that many chronic diseases have  common risk factors and hit the same demographic groups. That’s why, he said, it’s important for states “to deal with chronic diseases holistically, not just as separate conditions.”