Defining and measuring chronic conditions: Imperatives for research, policy, program, and practice

Richard A. Goodman, Samuel F. Posner, Elbert S. Huang, Anand K. Parekh, Howard K. Koh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Current trends in US population growth, age distribution, and disease dynamics foretell rises in the prevalence of chronic diseases and other chronic conditions. These trends include the rapidly growing population of older adults, the increasing life expectancy associated with advances in public health and clinical medicine, the persistently high prevalence of some risk factors, and the emerging high prevalence of multiple chronic conditions. Although preventing and mitigating the effect of chronic conditions requires sufficient measurement capacities, such measurement has been constrained by lack of consistency in definitions and diagnostic classification schemes and by heterogeneity in data systems and methods of data collection. We outline a conceptual model for improving understanding of and standardizing approaches to defining, identifying, and using information about chronic conditions in the United States. We illustrate this model's operation by applying a standard classification scheme for chronic conditions to 5 national-level data systems. Although the literature does not support a single uniform definition for chronic disease, recurrent themes include the non-self-limited nature, the association with persistent and recurring health problems, and a duration measured in months and years, not days and weeks. Thrall (1) So far, many different approaches have been used to measure the prevalence and consequences of chronic diseases and health conditions in children, resulting in a wide variability of prevalence estimates that cannot be readily compared. van der Lee et al (2).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number120239
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalPreventing chronic disease
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy

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