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21st CENTURY MEDICINE: A New Model for Medical Education and Practice

David S. Jones, MD
Laurie Hofmann, MPH
Sheila Quinn

In early 2009, an extraordinary degree of public attention was focused on healthcare reform. In Washington, DC, two hearings were held before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences hosted a Summit on Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public. In New York City, a major conference on Integrative Health Care was held. The January/February 2009 issue of Health Affairs was devoted entirely to The Crisis in Chronic Disease. Why?

We know with certainty now that rapidly rising rates of complex, chronic disease are creating an unsustainable burden on the national economy in both direct (e.g., treatment) and indirect (e.g., lost productivity) costs. The $1.3 trillion estimated to be the cost of chronic disease today may well grow to $4.2 trillion within 15 years. 8 Health professionals struggle every day to cope with the increase in suffering and disability that accompanies this modern epidemic. At a time when many other urgent pressures on the national economy command our attention, we absolutely must sustain our focus on the system-wide changes in health care that will be required in the years ahead if the most severe consequences of this epidemic are to be avoided.

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