The Business of Chronic Disease

The Business of Chronic Disease
Written by: DCCF Member Sam Garas

“We sit collectively in unique possession of an elegant solution to the world’s most vexing problem. The problem is chronic disease.” – Greg Glassman

Now that football season is over, none of us will be surprised to know who the top advertisers are for those games that we so religiously watch. The list is a tower of major corporations including Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi, Papa-Johns, Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Mars and so on. Those companies are in the business of selling as much of their product as possible to consumers that are making free choices. Those consumers are willingly and unwillingly contributing to a growth economy that will continue for decades to come. That growth economy is driven by chronic disease.

What is chronic disease? Greg Glassman, co-founder of CrossFit, describes chronic disease as one of the major categories of conditions that eventually lead to a human beings death. Those categories are: genetic, microbic, kinetic, and toxic. Genetic would be your parent’s fault, microbic would be a microorganism/bacterium that causes disease, kinetic would be an accident like a car crash and toxic is some kind of poison that causes disease and potential death. By all accounts, chronic disease contributes to 65-75% of all deaths in the United States. The list of chronic diseases (hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, type 2 diabetes, cardiomyopathy, etc.) is being serviced by some of the biggest corporations in the world. Pharmaceutical companies, major cancer and heart centers, wellness clinics, immediate care centers and others are all in the business of profiting from chronic disease.

The major dilemma the US healthcare system is facing today is deciding on which way to pivot in the chronic disease business. Will the industry pivot towards prevention of chronic disease or servicing chronic disease? Unfortunately, all signs are pointing towards servicing chronic disease with the daily barrage of new drugs to help you live and cope with chronic disease without regard to the side effects of those drugs. Chronic disease drugs help people every day but they obviously only treat the symptoms and do not get at the root cause. As Glassman so simply explains, the solution is to “get off the couch and get off the carbs.” Once you squat and eliminate that sugary soft drink, the root cause has been eliminated. Do that consistently and your chronic disease has been cured.

Health Insurance companies understand that eliminating the root cause of chronic disease will reduce medical expenses and keep their members out of the hospital, where the major medical expenses obviously occur. Advances have been made with predictive analytics to identify at risk individuals and drive them towards clinical programs to keep them out of the hospital, but those are mostly geared towards treating the symptoms. Health Insurance companies are also hedging their bets that chronic disease will only continue to increase by investing in pharmacies and wellness clinics. The most recent potential merger between Aetna and CVS is only the first of many mergers to come that will service chronic disease.

We as members of Derby City CrossFit and others that follow a fitness program with varied functional movements at high intensity along with a proper nutritional approach have found the cure. Many argue that group is less than 5% of the overall global population. Will that number grow over the next few years to more than 10%? Maybe, but all indications are that businesses are pivoting towards being leaders in the business of chronic disease and not prevention. That might actually be the smart business decision but where does that leave our society in the decades to come? It most likely will be a society dependent on emerging chronic disease drugs that keep people alive but not with a great quality of life. There is hope in knowing that a decade ago CrossFit had a few members at a small amount of affiliates that has now grown to millions of members and thousands of affiliates around the world. The message is getting out, it just needs to go faster before chronic disease and pre-mature death win out.

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