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05 June 2008
Ken Thorpe Hosts National Health Care Leaders at Washington Symposium
As voters focus increasingly on presidential candidates' health care proposals, the Emory University Institute for Advanced Policy Solutions and the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) today convened thought leaders to spotlight the integral role chronic disease prevention and management must play in health reform, and to offer evidence-based recommendations for what can be done to help more Americans lead healthier, more productive lives.

"When we talk about health care reform -- especially in the context of the presidential election -- there's no question that we need to talk about fighting chronic diseases. They are the most common, and the most costly, health conditions in this country," said Kenneth E. Thorpe, PhD, executive director of the Emory University Institute for Advanced Policy Solutions and chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health. Thorpe is also executive director of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease.

Thorpe noted that chronic illnesses account for seven in 10 deaths and 75 percent of health care spending in the United States -- about $1.5 billion in direct costs annually -- and that fighting chronic disease is critically important to making progress on Americans' greatest health care priorities, including improving the affordability and quality of care.

Progress, Thorpe proposed in his opening remarks to the half-day symposium, depends not only on the substance of ideas, but on the ability to develop leadership, and build a coalition with shared values, in support of change. By focusing on the most common causes of illness, disability, and death, he says, "We have greater promise of breaking through political gridlock because improving the health and wellness of Americans is not a partisan issue."

Thorpe called upon the many prominent health care leaders in attendance, including his fellow speakers, to join the PFCD in its mission to promote change. "Today we bring together some of the nation's greatest leaders in health care -- people with a wealth of experience -- to talk about what we need to do to fix this problem, and, just as importantly, to talk about how we can make health reform around this issue a political reality," he said.

Tom Daschle, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, echoed Dr. Thorpe's sentiments during his keynote address, noting the centrality of building consensus. Senator Daschle stated, "If we want to provide Americans with a health-care system they deserve, all interests groups must work together to address cost, quality, and access in a comprehensive fashion."

A number of other health, media and political experts also spoke at the symposium, including:

  • Dick Gephardt, JD, former U.S. House Majority Leader
  • Nancy Johnson, former U.S. Congresswoman and Ways & Means Health Subcommittee chair
  • Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform
  • Otis Brawley, MD, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society
  • Mary Agnes Carey, associate editor, CQ HealthBeat
  • Jeanne Cummings, chief Lobbying and Money correspondent, Politico
  • Pat Ford-Roegner, MSW, RN, FAAN, CEO of the American Academy of Nursing
  • John Harwood, chief Washington correspondent of CNBC, Political Writer for The New York Times
  • Patrick Mattingly, MD, chief medical officer of Health Dialog
  • Gwen Mayes, JD, MMSc, WomenHeart patient advocate
  • Laura Meckler, Wall Street Journal reporter
  • Nancy Nielsen, MD, PhD, president-elect of the American Medical Association
  • Chris Viehbacher, president of North American Pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline
  • Andy Stern, president of Service Employees International Union (Video Message)
  • James Wagner, PhD, president of Emory University (Video Message)
At the event, the PFCD also released a new resource for policymakers and health experts, "Keeping America Healthy: A Guide To Successful Programs," which showcases public and private programs from across the country that have proven success in improving health and health behaviors and reducing the burden of disease.

"Keeping America Healthy" examines programs across four settings -- workplace, schools, community and "health systems," (i.e., Medicare, hospitals, and other system-based settings) -- and identifies nine "essential elements" for success. It also includes a catalog that can serve as examples of ways to change individual behavior, maintain or improve health, and manage the staggering health care costs associated with chronic diseases. This new resource is available at

"While there is no template that works for all settings or circumstances, it is our hope that 'Keeping America Healthy' will provide a roadmap for how to conceive of and implement programs that can help to lower chronic disease rates and the risk factors associated with them, as well as reduce the burden of illness on those already affected," Thorpe said. This symposium is one of several efforts this year by the Emory University Institute for Advanced Policy Solutions and the PFCD to raise awareness of the nation's chronic disease crisis and to promote solutions that will work for all Americans.

On May 15, the Partnership issued a comprehensive "Almanac of Chronic Disease" highlighting the impact of chronic disease on Americans' health, health care, and the U.S. economy. The Almanac is available at


The mission of the Emory Institute for Advanced Policy Solutions is to improve public policymaking through research, education and technical assistance. The Institute serves as a critical hub for broad interdisciplinary research, applied policy development and public policy training -- all focused on evidence-based, innovative solutions to complex problems facing the public, private and nonprofit sectors. For additional information, visit

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