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Calls to better manage chronic disease in light of Covid-19

For people living with chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, respiratory problems or cardiovascular conditions, new research by UNSW Sydney reveals that there has never been a more dangerous time than the Covid-19 pandemic, with some experts calling for a bigger focus on preventative healthcare.

Chronic disease being ignored during COVID-19

“The Australian healthcare system needs a bigger focus on preventive healthcare, to improve outcomes for patients with [chronic diseases] and prevent more people from developing these diseases amid the Covid-19 pandemic,” says lead author, Uday Yadav, PhD candidate under Scientia professor Mark Harris of UNSW Medicine.

“Investment in prevention today will help save healthcare costs in the long-term, help reduce the incidence of [chronic diseases] and enhance our resilience against future pandemics.”

The study, published in Frontiers in Public Health analysed almost 50 studies looking at the synergistic impact of Covid-19 on people living with chronic diseases in low and middle-income countries such as Brazil, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Nigeria.

The research was conducted in collaboration between UNSW and public health researchers in Nepal, Bangladesh and India.

According to Mr Yadav looking at the interaction between chronic diseases and Covid-19 is important because global data has shown that deaths due to Covid-19 have been disproportionally high among people with chronic diseases.

Strategies for healthcare stakeholders 

To better manage people with chronic disease in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Yadav says the research has led them to recommend a series of strategies for healthcare stakeholders – he says that the Australian healthcare system “needs improvement”.

“The evidence we analysed also showed there was poor self-management of [chronic diseases] at a community level and Covid-19 has disrupted essential public health services, which people with [chronic diseases] rely on,” says Mr Yadav.

The recommended strategies include:

  • Develop plans for how to best provide health services to people with chronic diseases, from the moment they are assessed through to their treatment and palliation.
  • Develop digital campaigns to disseminate information on how to make positive behaviour changes and better self-manage chronic disease and Covid-19.

false COVID-19 info

  • Decentralise healthcare delivery for people with chronic diseases: involving local health districts and investing in community health worker programs could help to mitigate future outbreaks.  In addition, tailor self-management interventions for people with chronic diseases.
  • Ensure effective social and economic support for people with chronic diseases who are vulnerable to catching Covid-19, particularly Indigenous, rural, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse(CALD) and refugee communities, as well as people with severe mental illness.
  • Evaluate technology-assisted medical interventions to improve healthcare services, because complex case management, assessment and support is increasingly being done via telehealth appointments or other technology.

“In Australia, Covid-19 will increase inequality and poses a risk to some high and middle-income earners, but it’s a double threat to others such as Indigenous, rural, CALD and refugee communities, as well as people with severe mental illness – as reflected in our paper,” says Mr Yadav.

For more information and to read the research paper, visit: frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2020.00508/full

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