Two UNC faculty co-author Institute of Medicine report on chronic illness

The IOM’s report authorship committee of health professionals and internationally recognized experts included UNC professors Leigh Callahan, PhD and Russell Harris MD, MPH.

Two UNC faculty co-author Institute of Medicine report on chronic illness click to enlarge Leigh Callahan, PhD, at left, and Russell Harris, MD, MPH.
Two UNC faculty co-author Institute of Medicine report on chronic illness click to enlarge The report, "Living Well with Chronic Illness: A Call for Public Health Action," was released on Tuesday, Jan. 31.

Media contact: Tom Hughes, 919-966-6047, tahughes@unch.unc.edu

Wednesday, Feb. 1, 1012

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Two University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professors are among the co-authors of an Institute of Medicine report released this week that calls for immediate action to reduce the nation’s burden from all forms of chronic illness.

“This call to action underscores the importance of an integrated framework of coordination between public health, clinical care, and community agencies to ensure that individuals with chronic illness live well with their conditions,” said Leigh Callahan, PhD, of the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center.

The IOM released the report, Living Well with Chronic Illness: A Call for Public Health Action, on Tuesday (Jan. 31). The IOM’s committee of health professionals and internationally recognized experts, which included Callahan and her UNC colleague Russell Harris MD, MPH, worked for 12 months to compile the recommendations to improve the country’s approach to chronic illness.

“This report shows how important it is for us to close the gap between public health agencies and medical care institutions so as to form a seamless system of ongoing support and care for individuals and families affected by chronic conditions,”  Harris said.  

The committee focused on chronic conditions in general, illustrating their points with nine exemplar conditions. These and other chronic conditions create a large burden for the country, with notable implications for the nation’s health and economy and the quality of life of our people. The report pointed out that although chronic conditions are different in many ways, they also are similar in that they all lead to reduced function, a need for daily management, and increased risk for further decline.

Furthermore, all chronic conditions have negative effects on families and caregivers. The medical system alone is inadequate to provide the needed support and care for these individuals and families, but must reach out to communities to create new partnerships and structures. Various models for these structures should be developed and tested.

The nine exemplar conditions identifed in the report are:

  • arthritis,
  • cancer survivorship
  • chronic pain
  • dementia
  • depression
  • type 2 diabetes
  • posttraumatic disabling condition
  • schizophrenia
  • vision and hearing loss


The seventeen recommendations of the committee are believed to be important strategies and steps to support public health action to help individuals living with chronic illnesses.

The entire report can be found at the Institute of Medicine website.

Callahan is a professor in the departments of Medicine and Social Medicine in the UNC School of Medicine, adjunct asssociate professor of epidemiology in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and a research fellow at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research.

Harris is a professor of medicine in the UNC School of Medicine, senior investigator at the Sheps Center for Health Services Research,  and director of the Health Care and Prevention concentration in UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health's Public Health Leadership Program. He is also adjunct professor of epidemiology in the public health school.

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