A disease is defined as a physical or mental disturbance involving symptoms (such as pain or feeling unwell), dysfunction or tissue damage that may lead to ill health. Diseases can be acute (coming on sharply, often brief, intense and/or severe) or chronic (long-lasting with persistent effects ranging from mild to severe) or, in some cases, both. Common features of chronic diseases include:
Chronic diseases can range from mild to more significant conditions and include:
Changes to our lifestyles and reduction in other diseases in the last hundred years have meant that chronic diseases are increasingly common and now cause most of the burden of ill health. In addition to the personal and community costs, chronic diseases result in a significant economic burden because of the combined effects of health-care costs and lost productivity from illness and death. A key focus of the Australian health system, therefore, is the prevention and better management of chronic disease to improve health outcomes.
The highlights presented here are based on the following 8 chronic diseases: arthritis, asthma, back pain and problems, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and mental health conditions. These chronic diseases were selected for reporting because they are common, pose significant health problems, have been the focus of recent AIHW surveillance efforts, and action can be taken to prevent their occurrence.
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