Pain. Diabetes. Hypertension. These chronic conditions afflict nearly four in five adults living in the United States, a statistic the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is hoping to improve by granting research awards to three new, condition-related projects.

“These awards are timely in that they align with efforts throughout the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to achieve optimum health and quality of life for people who suffer from multiple chronic conditions,” Dr. James M. Anderson, director of NIH’s Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, said in a press release. “The research funded through these awards will fill gaps in our knowledge about the inventions and systems that can benefit individuals with multiple chronic conditions.”

The first project is a Pragmatic Trial of Video Education in Nursing Homes (PROVEN), where video education will be evaluated as an effective decision-making tool for patients, family, and their health care team. The second is called PIECES, another medical information tool, in which researchers will implement a model that includes collaborative and subspeciality care for patients. And lastly, the third project will focus on treating patients suffering from acute physical injuries and otherwise conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol and drug misuse, even depression.

In funding these projects, the NIH hopes to arrive at the best practices for treating patients suffering from chronic conditions which, in addition to chronic pain, diabetes, and hypertension, includes heart disease, asthma and cancer. These to-be-seen best practices will decrease the occurence of two things: negative patient experience and negative outcomes from unnecessary treatments, like a drug a patient only incurs a negative reaction from.

Chronic conditions and diseases are generally uncurable and kill over a million Americans each year. In fact, seven of the top 10 causes of death are chronic conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and in 2006, 84 percent of health care spending was for 50% of the population suffering from chronic conditions — a number that only continues to rise.

While the findings of the newly funding NIH-projects will no doubt be invaluable, the CDC believes in the power of prevention. Eliminating but three risk factors, namely poor diet, inactivty, and smoking, can prevent risk for heart disease and stroke by 80 percent, type 2 diabetes by 80 percent and cancer by 40 percent.

Think of it this way: Trust for America's Health estimates that every $10 a person puts into community-based programs that tackle the aforementioned risk factors will yield over $16 billion in medical cost savings annually. A small price to pay before any better practices are revealed.