United States needs less ‘sickcare,’ more health care

By Richard Simon
Daily Record

With an aging population, the health care industry has become increasingly synonymous with “sick care.”

That’s what David Brennan, the newly elected board chairman of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said Tuesday at a Greater Baltimore Committee breakfast and lecture at the Center Club.

Brennan’s speech coincided with the announcement of a newly formed partnership with organizations statewide to fight chronic disease.

“We would like to transform our system from a ‘sick care’ system to a ‘health care’ system that’s focused on health and not just sick care,” said Brennan, chief executive officer of the international pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

Chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are
responsible for seven out of every 10 deaths in the United States and are one of the primary reasons why there has been a rise in health care costs, according to statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A Milken Institute study found that the total treatment costs among seven common chronic diseases was nearly $5.2 billion in Maryland in 2003.

Brennan said that companies across the country are adopting workplace wellness and disease management programs to try and help their employees achieve long-term financial relief and better health.

“I think for health care reform to be successful it needs to create new kinds of incentives that previously, I don’t think existed in the same way to try and promote wellness,” Brennan said.

Donald C. Fry, president of the GBC, said that the issue of health care is of prime importance for area businesses in this ailing economy.

“You have the cost issue and the productivity issue,” Fry said.

“You want your employees to have a high quality of life. Everybody in business has these issues and that’s why it’s so important to us as we move forward. … Fighting chronic disease, which accounts for 75 percent of all of our health care costs … that’s something you would want to be attacking.”

Fry added that Baltimore’s proximity to Washington, D.C., has made “Maryland a very important state in this matter.”

Roberto Allen, a lawyer who specializes in business law and tech/biotech, attended the lecture, and said that soaring health care costs can have a negative impact on startup companies and individuals considering launching their own businesses.

“That will affect the kinds of companies that are starting now and the technologies that investors will put their money into,” he said.

Following the event, Brennan and U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona joined state leaders at the National Aquarium in Baltimore to launch the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, which calls for comprehensive health care reform.

Two universal health care bills were introduced at this year’s General Assembly, but neither bill reached the House or Senate floors.

Editor’s Note: This article was published in the April 14 edition of the Daily Record.

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