Millions of Americans have been directly infected by COVID-19, but that’s not the only impact the pandemic is having on people’s health. It’s also causing many people who live with chronic health conditions, like heart disease and cancer, to delay regularly scheduled doctor’s visits or even avoid emergency treatments.
It’s understandable: People with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for serious complications from COVID-19, and so there is an increased fear of seeking the medical care they need to manage their condition. Recent reports suggest that delaying or avoiding medical care may increase morbidity and mortality.
Amgen has joined others in the medical and public health communities to tackle this issue, including working alongside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the CDC Foundation on the development of educational materials, in both English and Spanish languages, for two high-risk patient populations: people diagnosed with cancer and those with heart disease.
For more than a decade, heart disease and cancer have claimed the first and second spots as the leading causes of mortality, and together are responsible for 46% of deaths in the U.S. It’s critically important to address the avoidance of doctor’s visits among these populations.
In a recent MMWR article, the CDC reported that, in the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic, at least one in five expected emergency department visits for heart attack or stroke didn’t happen. As part of our involvement with the CDC Foundation’s Million Hearts Communication Campaign, Amgen helped support the development of two public service announcements designed to reinforce the importance of Emergency Care for Heart Disease During COVID-19 and Maintaining Heart Health During COVID-19.
In cancer care, it became clear that people were choosing to avoid important medical appointments, like chemotherapy infusions, out of fear of COVID-19. To help encourage patients to work with their healthcare teams to make decisions that best protect their health and optimize their cancer outcomes, a public service announcement was developed as part of Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients, a long-standing program led by CDC and the CDC Foundation, with support from Amgen Oncology: Dealing with Cancer During COVID-19.
The unintended impact of COVID-19 on delaying or avoiding medical care poses very real and dire health consequences for people with chronic diseases. It’s important that everyone in the healthcare community work together to ensure that the downstream effects of the pandemic don’t create a secondary health crisis for people who live with chronic conditions.