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HHS Initiative on Multiple Chronic Conditions

21st Century Challenge for Healthy Aging:

Balancing Living Well with the Reality of Multiple Chronic Conditions


To raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities for healthy aging for older adults in the U.S., the White House Conference on Aging presented the first in a series of webinars on this important topic. 21st Century Challenge for Healthy Aging: Balancing Living Well with the Reality of Multiple Chronic Conditions was in collaboration with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and held on Thursday, December 11, 2014.  HHS and external stakeholders discussed how they are addressing the challenges for older adults in balancing living well with multiple chronic conditions.

Archived Webinar Details:  Slides | Transcript | Video

Find out more about the White House Conference on Aging.

Optimum Health and Quality of Life for Individuals with Multiple Chronic Conditions

Multiple chronic conditions (MCC) pose a significant and increasing burden on the health of Americans. As part of its efforts to reduce the burden and suffering from MCC, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) supports a large number of programs to prevent and manage multiple chronic conditions MCC. HHS also provides leadership for improving the health of individuals with MCC. 

What are multiple chronic conditions?

Chronic conditions are conditions that last a year or more and require ongoing medical attention and/or limit activities of daily living.3  They include both physical conditions such as arthritis, cancer, and HIV infection. Also included are mental and cognitive disorders, such as ongoing depression, substance addiction, and dementia.

MCC are concurrent chronic conditions.In other words, multiple chronic conditions are two or more chronic conditions that affect a person at the same time. For example, either a person with arthritis and hypertension or a person with heart disease and depression, both have multiple chronic conditions. 

Why are multiple chronic conditions important?

  • Approximately one in four Americans has MCC, including one in 15 children.1
  • Among Americans aged 65 years and older, as many as three out of four persons have MCC.1 In addition, approximately two out of three Medicare beneficiaries have MCC.2  
  • People with MCC are also at increased risk for mortality and poorer day-to-day functioning.
  • MCC are associated with substantial health care costs in the United States. Approximately 66 percent of the total health care spending is associated with care for the over one in four Americans with MCC.1

As an individual’s number of chronic conditions increases, the individual’s risk for dying, hospitalizations that can be avoided, and even receiving conflicting advice from physicians and other health care providers increases. People with MCC also are at greater risk of poor day-to-day functioning. MCC contributes to frailty and disability. Functional limitations often complicate access to health care, interfere with self-management, and necessitate reliance on caregivers.

Increased spending on chronic diseases among Medicare beneficiaries is a key factor driving the overall increase in spending in the traditional Medicare program. Individuals with MCC face substantial out-of-pocket costs of their care including higher costs for prescription drugs. 

How is HHS addressing Multiple Chronic Conditions?

HHS administers a large number of federal programs directed toward the prevention and management of MCC. HHS also provides leadership in improving health outcomes in individuals with MCC.

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1 Anderson G. Chronic Care: Making the Case for Ongoing Care. Princeton, NJ: Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, 2010. 

2 Chronic Conditions among Medicare Beneficiaries, Chart Book, Baltimore, MD: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 2011.

Content created by Assistant Secretary for Health
Content last reviewed on December 22, 2014