A new study from the New Jersey Hospital Association finds some of the state's poorest areas struggle with the most chronic health conditions, costing hospital emergency rooms more than $1 billion in 2017 alone.

Sean Hopkins, senior vice president for The Center for Health Analytics, Research and Transformation for the New Jersey Hospital Association, said the ZIP codes with the highest number of emergency room visits by patients with chronic conditions were in Atlantic City, Jersey City and Trenton.

The data for higher chronic conditions in these cities "jumped off the page," Hopkins said.

Cumberland County had the most patients with chronic conditions, nearly double the state average. Atlantic and Essex counties followed.

"We are talking about hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma, anxiety, kidney disease, obesity, depression. These are essentially the chronic conditions that are conditions that are long in duration, void of spontaneous resolution, and oftentimes limit function," he said.

The center analyzed 3 million emergency room claims as well as data measuring food access, transportation, income and employment. It found that 39 percent of visits to emergency rooms were by patients who had at least one chronic condition. These visits also accounted for more than half of emergency care costs.

The report found that preventative care can get out in front of many of these chronic conditions if it's applied in a timely manner.

"Those people that do suffer from chronic conditions, per the (Centers of Disease Control), even modest improvements in chronic conditions can reduce stroke and heart failure. So this is the place to really try and tackle health status in New Jersey," he said.

The Center for Analytics, Research and Transformation at NJHA was designed and established to improve the health of the people of New Jersey.

Hopkins says they are looking at preventative programs that have worked well elsewhere.

"We are going to look for opportunities to try and promote the use of chronic disease management apps to increase awareness in programs that have been successful in other parts of the country," he said.

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