For Immediate Release: April 11, 2008
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
BURLINGTON – While working as a physician in California, Craig Jones, MD, worked to expand the capacity to screen for, and treat, asthma for people living in inner city areas of Los Angeles. Here in Vermont, as director of the Vermont Blueprint for Health, he hopes to accomplish a similar expansion, but instead of focusing on one chronic condition, he is focused on all of the most prevalent chronic conditions.
Chronic conditions are the leading cause of illness, disability and death in Vermont, and more than half of all Vermont adults have one or more chronic conditions. The Vermont Blueprint for Health is a statewide collaboration to improve the health and health care system for Vermonters.
“Early screening and detection of many chronic diseases can greatly improve a person’s quality of life, and chance of surviving a condition such as colon cancer or heart disease,” said Health Commissioner Sharon Moffatt, RN, MSN. “The opportunity here to combine the prevention and healthy living focus of public health with best practices in health care to improve the overall health of Vermonters is huge.”
According to the The Health Status of Vermonters 2008 just published by the Vermont Department of Health, in 2005 only 50 percent of Vermonters age 50 to 59 were screened for colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the cause of 130 deaths in the state each year, despite a 90 percent survival rate when it is diagnosed early.
Every year in Vermont, over 900 Vermonters die from heart disease and 260 die from stroke. Behaviors that help lower a person's risk of dying are not smoking, staying at a healthy weight, eating fewer fatty and high cholesterol foods, being active and knowing to call 9-1-1 at the first sign of heart attack or stroke. Clinical preventive services shown to lower risk of disease are counseling to stop smoking, periodic blood pressure and cholesterol screening, and controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol.
"Physicians are generally aware of what they ought to be screening for," Dr. Jones said. "A key role of the Blueprint for Health is to provide physicians with the tools they need such as a clinical tracking system that helps doctors plan visits with a patient even before they come in for an exam."
Through a collaboration with Health Department district offices and health care providers, the Blueprint provides the information, tools and support that Vermonters with chronic conditions need to manage their own health – and that doctors need to keep their patients healthy. The Blueprint is working to change health care to a system focused on preventing illness and complications, rather than reacting to health emergencies.
“Being able to improve clinical decision support based on best practices is essential,” Dr. Jones said.
Having the right information available at the right time is essential for providing the best possible care for patients. The Blueprint is developing a web-based chronic care patient information system that will be available free to health care providers. A test system is currently being piloted at Mt. Ascutney Hospital in Windsor, and implementation of the information system is planned for several practices in St. Johnsbury and Burlington in the second half of 2008.
“Vermont is driving to become the first state in the nation to go live with a statewide chronic care clinical information system,” Dr. Jones said. “That’s the kind of pioneering initiative that drives physicians and health care providers to pursue new levels of excellence. Pushing the envelope of health reform in a small state where the community is tight-knit is exciting. There is an energy here and we know the rest of the nation is watching. I feel it when I come to work every day. It’s an exciting time.”