The Connecticut Cancer Plan, 2014-2017 developed with the guidance of Connecticut’s chronic disease policy team, features a collaborative relationship with chronic disease prevention programs within the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH). This relationship assumes ongoing support of cross-cutting policy, communications, epidemiology and evaluation activities among chronic disease programs. The Centers for Disease Control have recognized the synergy possible through partnerships between cancer coalitions and state chronic disease programs. Chronic diseases, including heart, stroke, diabetes, asthma and cancer are among the most common and costly of all health problems. They are also among the most preventable, since four health behaviors – lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption – are responsible for much of the illness, suffering and early death related to these chronic diseases.
Connecticut’s Coordinated Chronic Disease Plan places a strong emphasis on addressing root causes and shared risk factors across chronic diseases. It fills a gap in the existing spectrum of Connecticut’s chronic disease programs by defining strategies that enable a comprehensive proactive approach in the prevention of modifiable risk factors with a focus on health equity and avoidable disparities. The DPH has defined health isparities as:
. . . differences in disease risk, incidence, prevalence, morbidity and mortality and other adverse conditions, such as unequal access to quality health care, that exist among specific population groups in Connecticut…. Specifically, health disparities refer to those avoidable differences in health that result from cumulative social disadvantages.
Vulnerable population groups may be based on race, ethnicity, age, gender, socioeconomic position, immigrant status, sexual minority status, language, disability, homelessness, mental illness and geographic area of residence. The DPH recognizes these groups as “priority populations” in addressing health disparities and DPH plans to address health issues related to priority populations.
The Coordinated Chronic Disease Plan builds on the successful implementation of several categorical disease-specific and risk factor-based plans, including the previous version of Connecticut’s Cancer Plan. The Chronic Disease Plan transcends categorical or disease specific plans and focuses on promoting system changes that produce a higher collective impact across multiple disease conditions.
The Chronic Disease Plan introduces four main strategies that work across chronic diseases.
- Use environmental approaches to promote health and support and reinforce healthful behaviors throughout the lifespan. Promoting wellness in childcare settings, schools and workplaces, as well as supporting healthy communities, is key to preventing chronic disease at the most basic level.
- Promote health system interventions to improve the effective delivery and use of clinical and other preventive services. This strategy focuses on making evidence-based practices a part of the standard of care for all patients, regardless of their point of entry to the medical system.
- Improve community-clinical linkages to ensure that communities support and clinics refer patients to, programs that improve management of chronic diseases. Disease prevention in the community is cost-effective and promotes healthy environments. Coordination between formal healthcare providers and community-based advocates allows individuals to be at the center of their care.
- Support an epidemiology and surveillance system that gathers, analyzes and disseminates data and information and conducts evaluation to inform, prioritize, deliver and monitor programs and population health. Enhancing epidemiology and surveillance is central to creating and monitoring the plan across chronic diseases and measuring its impact on health disparities.
The Partnership will continue its collaborative relationship with the state’s chronic disease prevention programs.