Chronic diseases such asthma, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke are the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. These diseases account for seven of every ten deaths and affect the quality of life of 90 million Americans. In 2001, over 70% of all deaths that occurred in New York State were due to chronic diseases. In addition to causing major limitations in daily living and leading to high costs of health care, chronic diseases are also among the most preventable. Factors such as reducing or preventing tobacco use, poor diet, and physical inactivity, are known to protect and reduce the incidence of chronic disease.
Chronic disease prevention is rooted in the modification of risk factors (primary prevention), the detection of chronic diseases in their earliest stages (secondary prevention) and the treatment of chronic disease and attention to disease management and self-management by diagnosed individuals in order to prevent debilitating and costly complications (tertiary prevention).