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An estimated 60 percent of American adults have at least one chronic disease.The number of people with three or more is projected to more than double by 2030.2

Reversing this trend is an urgent Goliath-sized undertaking, but there are strategic steps we can take to address the issue.

Doing so will not only save lives but also help lower national health care costs. Chronic diseases account for nearly 75 percent of the $3.5 trillion in annual health care spending.3,4 As an additional economic strain, about one-fifth of lost productivity can be attributed to the onset of chronic disease.5

Among the top five costliest chronic diseases are diabetes and cardiovascular disease.6 Explore the statistics behind those conditions:7,8,9

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  • Diabetes:

    In 2017, 30 million American adults were diagnosed with diabetes. Medical costs for diabetes were $237 billion.

    In 2030, an estimated 55 million American adults will be diagnosed with diabetes. Medical costs will be a projected $622 billion.

    Cardiovascular disease:

    In 2017, 103 million American adults were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. Medical costs for cardiovascular disease were $318 billion.

    In 2030, an estimated 131 million American adults will be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. Medical costs will be a projected $749 billion.


A dedicated investment in prevention holds great promise to curb the effects of chronic disease. Proactive steps like annual screenings, early interventions and lifestyle changes hold great potential to significantly curb the risk, or delay the effects, of chronic disease on our society.

For example, a study in American Health & Drug Benefits found that the two-year cost of treating stage IV breast cancer is $182,655, compared with less than $100,000 for stage 0 through II.10

Also consider these estimates on cost and life savings from the U.S. Surgeon General and Centers for Disease Control:11,12

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  • Lowering the instance of high blood pressure by 5% will save $25 billion in five years.

    Lowering an average daily sodium intake to 2,300 ml could save $18 billion per year.

    Increasing preventive care to recommended levels could save 100,000 lives a year.


Americans currently use preventive services at only about half the recommended rate, despite many of these services being offered at little to no cost to patients.13

How do we increase preventive care usage? Education about those services, as well as encouragement and empowerment, are key. We need to identify at-risk individuals and provide them with the right resources at the right time. Here are a few examples of programs doing exactly that:

  • Integrated wellness coaching can help reduce risk of chronic disease by reshaping healthy lifestyle habits. Programs like Quit for Life, created in partnership with the American Cancer Society, have helped 4.3 million individuals quit smoking since 1985.
  • Care reminders from a health plan prompt people to take action. Members who receive reminders are 49 percent more likely to resolve a disease monitoring issue, and 30 percent more likely to resolve a potential medication-adherence issue.
  • Employee well-being programs, now offered by about 70 percent of U.S. companies, can help prevent chronic disease.14 An annual survey by UnitedHealthcare revealed that 30 percent of employees with access to wellness programs got help in detecting a disease.15

Learn more about these and other Optum prevention and well-being solutions to proactively get people more preventive care and help reduce the burden of chronic disease.

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Related Solutions


On-site wellness coaching

In-person support empowers employees to make healthy changes and take ownership of their health goals.



Prevention and well-being

Take a consumer-centric approach to helping people improve their health and reduce their health risks and costs.



Care reminders

Address health needs and prevent complications with proactive health opportunity alerts that offer measurable outcomes.




  1. Centers for Disease Control. About Chronic Diseases. Updated Nov. 19, 2018. Accessed March 28, 2019.
  2. Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease. What is the impact of chronic disease on America? Accessed March 28, 2019.
  3. National Association of Chronic Disease Directors. Why We Need Public Health to Improve Healthcare. Accessed March 28, 2019.
  4. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. National Health Expenditure Fact Sheet. Updated Dec. 6, 2018. Accessed March 28, 2019.
  5. Milken Institute. The Cost of Chronic Diseases in the U.S. Published May 25, 2018. Accessed March 28, 2019.
  6. HealthPayer Intelligence. Top 10 Most Expensive Chronic Diseases for Healthcare Payers. Published July 19, 2017. Accessed March 28, 2019.
  7. Centers for Disease Control. About Prediabetes & Type 2 Diabetes. Updated June 11, 2018. Accessed March 28, 2019.
  8. Population Health Management. Diabetes 2030: Insights from Yesterday, Today, and Future Trends. Published Feb. 1, 2107. Accessed March 28, 2019.
  9. American Heart Association: Cardiovascular disease: A costly burden for America. Published October 2017. Accessed March 28, 2019.
  10. American Health & Drug Benefits. Comparison of Treatment Costs for Breast Cancer, by Tumor Stage and Type of Service. Published February 2016. Accessed March 28, 2019.
  11. U.S. Surgeon General. Economic Benefits of Preventing Disease. Published June 16, 2011. Accessed March 28, 2019.
  12. Centers for Disease Control. CDC Prevention Checklist. Updated May 31, 2017. Accessed March 28, 2019.
  13. Preventive health services. Accessed March 28, 2019.
  14. Forbes. More Than Two-Thirds of U.S. Employers Currently Offer Wellness Programs, Study Says. Published July 8, 2015. Accessed March 28, 2019.
  15. UnitedHealthcare. Study: Employees with Access to Wellness Programs Say They Are More Willing to Devote Time to Their Health Compared to People without Such Initiatives. Published May 22, 2018. Accessed March 28, 2019.