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The forgotten killer: Cardiovascular disease

The number of people in the world dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD) continues to rise. Aetna International is taking a continuous, proactive approach to help address the issue. Helping people focus on staying healthy and providing support to those at-risk of developing CVD can help improve people’s ability to avoid CVD and additional complications.

At Aetna International, our clinical experts have produced a white paper, ‘The forgotten killer: Cardiovascular disease’, that explores this chronic health threat. Whilst genetic factors do play a role in whether people develop CVD, the paper’s authors argue that lifestyle choices over time have the most devastating cumulative effects. Dr. Stella George, Aetna International Senior Medical Director, notes in the paper that CVD development and impact is layered and complex.

“One way to think about CVD is to picture an onion,” she says. “The outermost layer represents the most visible outcomes of CVD, primarily heart attack and stroke. Peel back that layer and you find coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and other diseases and conditions that lead to those outcomes. Remove another layer, and you find contributing conditions like obesity, diabetes, clogged arteries and high blood pressure. At the core, you get to the key root causes of CVD: lifestyle choices that contribute to those conditions, even those that stem from genetic predisposition.”

Preventing and managing CVD requires risk factor awareness, lifestyle changes, access to adequate health care, and ongoing coaching and support — all elements we are uniquely positioned to support by transforming from a health insurance to a health and wellness model.

Our newly introduced virtual health care service is making it easier and more convenient for people to access quality, impartial primary health care advice and treatment wherever they are in the world. In addition, our new In Touch Care model gives at-risk members direct one-on-one access to a clinician, and lifestyle-change education to lower risk members. Among one member group the application of this health model resulted in a 73 percent increase in member engagement and 12.5 percent increase in treatment adherence, therefore lowering the toll of CVD among the member group. And a 2016 pilot text messaging support programme for Aetna International members in the Middle East who showed indications of ischemic heart disease resulted in increased specialist visits, 22 percent lower health care costs and a 5.5 percent decrease in heart attacks.

About the authors

Dr George, MBBS, DPH, MBA, is the Head of Care Management (Americas) and is responsible for the delivery of all of our care management programs through her team’s global clinical operations. She is responsible for driving the care management strategy. She has oversight on the clinical program design which is focused on developing member-centric innovative programs focused on increasing member engagement and improving health outcomes.

As Senior Medical Director for Aetna International, Dr. Lori Stetz, MHP, provides guidance, support, and medical leadership for all care management activities around the globe. Lori drives medical policy, and actively participates in strategic planning and program and product development in concurrence with changing markets and technologies. Lori also manages Aetna International’s emergency evacuation program, helping to ensure appropriate health care delivery for our members around the globe.

As Medical Director for Aetna International, Dr. Patel, MBA, provides guidance, support, and medical leadership for care management activities in Europe. Dr. Patel also manages Aetna International’s emergency evacuation program, helping to ensure appropriate health care delivery for our members around the globe. Dr. Patel graduated from King’s College University, London and also has a Healthcare Management degree from Imperial College, London. He is also a practicing physician in Emergency Medicine. 

Listen to Dr Sneh Khemka discuss CVD in our Fit for Duty podcast episode below.

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