Is Hypertension a Neglected Disease? IOM Report Cites Lack of Progress in Hypertension Reduction and Control

A new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) claims that hypertension could be thought of as a "neglected disease" due to the lack of attention it receives from public health officials and healthcare providers relative to the magnitude of hypertension-associated morbidity and mortality.

Some quick facts about hypertension:

  • 1 in 6 adult deaths annually is caused by hypertension
  • Nearly 1 in 3 US adults has hypertension (!)
  • Total (direct and indirect) cost to the US healthcare system from hypertension in 2009 was more than $73 billion

Despite this, a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) claims that hypertension could be thought of as a “neglected disease” due to the lack of attention it receives from public health officials and healthcare providers relative to the magnitude of hypertension-associated morbidity and mortality. To help rectify this, the CDC tasked the IOM with identifying “high-priority areas on which public health organizations and professionals should focus in order to accelerate progress in hypertension reduction and control.”

David Fleming, chair of the IOM committee that produced the report, said http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/179955.php “Although hypertension is relatively easy to prevent, simple to diagnose, and relatively inexpensive to treat, it remains the second leading cause of death among Americans, and as such should rightly be called a neglected disease… Undiagnosed and uncontrolled cases are occurring at alarming rates, even though many people with hypertension see their doctors regularly. We think health care providers can do better at helping patients control their blood pressure, but what will make the biggest difference is creating environments that help people avoid the condition in the first place through healthy eating and active living."

The report also identified inadequate potassium consumption as “one of the most prevalent and modifiable risk factors for hypertension” and urged state and local health officials to “develop and implement interventions to encourage people to eat potassium rich foods, particularly fruits and vegetables,” and reduce their sodium intake.

The report recommends that the CDC, state, and local health authorities “focus on population-based strategies that can reach large numbers of people and improve the well-being of entire communities” through behavioral and lifestyle interventions. The report also states that healthcare providers need to improve their level of adherence to current treatment guidelines for hypertension, especially in the elderly population. Other recommendations in the report include encouraging patients to take medication consistently by reducing or eliminating the cost of antihypertensive medication, strengthening hypertension surveillance and monitoring efforts, and supporting programs that promote support healthy eating, active living, and obesity prevention.

In a statement http://americanheart.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=967 released by the American Heart Association, AHA president Clyde Yancy, MD, said that the IOM report “reinforces the need for a broad-based initiative in the science and public health spectrums to help individuals manage hypertension and perhaps even prevent the onset of hypertension.” The AHA also “supports the IOM’s recommendations to make drug therapy more affordable for Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries and boost funding for prevention programs that provide smoking cessation counseling and screenings for high blood pressure and cholesterol for underserved populations. Currently, funding for prevention programs remains woefully inadequate, limiting access for at-risk individuals in many communities.” The AHA “agrees with the IOM’s recommendation of limiting daily consumption of sodium” and is working with food industry leaders and government agencies “to identify novel strategies to reduce the amount of sodium in the food supply.”

The complete text of “A Population-based Policy and Systems Change Approach to Prevent and Control Hypertension” can be accessed here. http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12819