Chronic medical conditions are a serious problem for millions of women and families. It is estimated that about 50 percent of adults in the United States have a chronic medical condition. As the primary caregivers in most families, women have first-hand experience not only with their own chronic medical conditions but those of their families members as well. Also notable: Nearly 50 percent of health care spending goes to providing care for about 5 percent of the U.S. population.

To add our support for promoting better care, improving health and lowering costs for women and families with chronic conditions, HealthyWomen is focusing its policy efforts on three major health conditions because of their tremendous impact on women and our communities:

Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Disease is progressive dementia characterized by loss of short-term memory, that occurs more frequently as people age. (It is estimated that about one-third of all people aged 85 years and older have some degree of short-term memory problem that is considered abnormal.)

As the primary caregiver and care coordinator in most families, women are often faced with managing the medical care — and support services, such as in-home visits and day care — for multiple generations of their family. Additionally, women are often responsible for managing the financial and insurance aspects of medical care and services.

Some medications can help slow the progression of memory loss and help patients cope with some of the other clinical problems that people with Alzheimer's can experience. Indeed, researchers are working to develop better treatments to stop its progression, prevent it from occurring in the first place, or even reverse it. Increased funding for that research is critically important for discovering new treatments and prevention options.

Many communities offer resources and support groups to help patients and their families. And as with research, funding is critical to ensure access to medical care and social services. In addition, insurance coverage requirements — including Medicare and Medicaid — are important to ensure that people with Alzheimer's have access to the care and services they need, no matter wherethey live. Learn more about Alzheimer's Disease.

Cardiovascular Diseases and Diabetes

Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, is the no. 1 killer of women. It's no wonder, then, that cardiovascular diseases and diabetes (which can cause heart disease) are both critically important concerns for women and families.

Cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity are related conditions that often occur together because they frequently have common causes. It is important for women, who often have different cardiovascular-related symptoms than men, to understand how these complex conditions are connected.

As with many diseases, funding to improve treatments and outreach for diagnosis is critical. In particular, it is important to recognize that some screening tests and treatments for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases are preventive, and thus, insurance may cover them without cost to patients.

To that end, advocating for increased research funding and better insurance benefits is one area where women can take action to improve the care for themselves and their families. Learn more about Cardiovascular Diseases and Diabetes.

Chronic Pain Management

Pain is a complex condition that is hard to measure and can be difficult to treat, in part because the perception of pain varies from person to person. In our policy work, HealthyWomen is focused on chronic pain, and its causes and treatment because of its very challenging and intertwined relationship with the current opioid epidemic nationwide. 

For this reason, we want to add our voices to ensure that both the opioid use disorder crisis and treating chronic pain are considered equally and concurrently, and that the perspectives of women and their families represented as policies, laws, and regulations are developed and implemented at the federal, state, and local levels. Learn more about Chronic Pain Management.