NEWS

China looks to Seven Oaks model for chronic disease management and prevention

Carrie Solmundson
Carrie Solmundson, President and CEO of Seven Oaks Hospital, will be speaking about wellness at a health-care conference in China.

BY SUSIE STRACHAN
Winnipeg Health Region
Published Thursday, October 10, 2013

Halfway around the world, Chinese hospitals are taking an interest in how chronic diseases are managed at the Wellness Institute at Seven Oaks Hospital.

That interest resulted in Carrie Solmundson, President and CEO of Seven Oaks Hospital, being invited to speak at a health-care conference held in Beijing, China on the October long-weekend. She’ll be speaking about how professional support for healthy lifestyle change can help prevent chronic illness or help people with chronic diseases to manage their own health and avoid further illness and disability.

“The Chinese are very interested in our model of prevention at the Wellness Institute,” says Solmundson, adding that the facility was the first medical fitness centre owned by a hospital in Canada, when it was built in the mid-1990s.

“We know that seven out of 10 deaths are related in some way to chronic disease, aided by a bad diet, lack of exercise, smoking, obesity, etc. and we recognize that more comprehensive care is required. The Chinese want to learn how to integrate our model of medically-run health and fitness to their system.”

The Wellness Institute offers many programs for patients with chronic disease including cardiac or pulmonary rehabilitation, along with exercise programs for people who have had a stroke, or have diabetes, chronic kidney disease, cancer or Parkinson’s.

Having the Wellness Institute connected to Seven Oaks means the hospital can treat illness but also promote health to help with recovery and avoid more hospital visits over the long term. That prevents illness but it also helps avoid health-care costs, says Solmundson. “There’s a continuum of care from prevention through rehabilitation.”

The connection between Winnipeg and China was forged two years ago, when representatives from two Chinese hospitals toured Winnipeg’s health facilities, including the Wellness Institute. In return, Solmundson was invited to speak at a conference in China in June of this year. The cost of both visits is covered by the conference hosts.

“China is undergoing a massive health-care reform, with a primary focus on how their system and hospitals support chronic disease management. China has seen a huge lifestyle shift, with more people becoming obese with a corresponding rise in problems such as heart disease. The population over 50 will increase by about 100 million over the next ten years, which means a rise in health-care costs for this aging group,” Solmundson says. “Physical inactivity, smoking, high calorie diets are causing chronic disease on an immense level.”

By 2020, chronic diseases – heart and lung disease, diabetes and cancer – will account for 75 per cent of all deaths worldwide, says Solmundson, adding that obesity, inactivity and poor diet are reaching epidemic levels. Smoking increases mortality by 50 per cent and doubles incidents of cancer. And in Canada, chronic disease accounts for approximately 50 per cent of health-care spending, she says.

China has over 20,000 hospitals, and the majority of health care services are provided at the hospitals in the provinces and major cities. Under the old, state-run health care system prior to the 1950s, every person had health coverage to some extent. That changed to a fee-for-service system, which is now being modified to once again provide coverage for everyone to some extent, says Solmundson.

“Hospitals in China are huge, with 600 of them having more than 800 beds. Some of the cities have hospitals greater than 4,000 beds. Hospitals are the mainstay for care in China, so the Chinese are looking for ways to move the care to the community, and how minor conditions can lead to chronic problems,” she says.

Along with speaking at the conference in Beijing, Solmundson will be meeting with senior representatives from different hospitals.

Solmundson hopes to see an international workshop on chronic disease management grow out of the Manitoba-China connection in the future. “I’ll be finding out on this trip whether they’re interested in keeping up the relationship with us.”

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