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People with Underlying Medical Conditions: It's Not Your Fault and You're Not Alone

Aubrey Jenkins | April 7, 2020

Jenkins-Aubrey-inHealth3A new analysis from the CDC confirms what we already knew to be true; that people with chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease appear to be at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

78 percent of COVID-19 patients in the U.S. requiring admission to the ICU had at least one underlying condition and 94 percent of those who died had an underlying condition.  

Now if you are one of the "lucky" ones not to have an underlying medical condition that puts you at higher risk, you might consider those that do "unlucky" or worse "at fault" for their own circumstance. I wouldn’t blame you because there’s a certain narrative swirling around that people who are at higher risk are, well, on their own and that’s that.  

As someone who has dedicated their career to helping people with chronic conditions, I know how hard it is to manage these diseases and how the systems built to educate us and nurture us often fail us. 

I developed a passion for this line of work after my own mother had bariatric surgery and, not long after, felt alone and scared that, without proper outpatient care and guidance, she would regain her weight and suffer from all the same chronic conditions that came along with obesity in the first place. After seven years of running our brick and mortar clinics I identified 1:1 virtual health coaching as a path to improving people’s lives while meeting them where they are; out living their lives. Patients soon relied on their virtual health coaches for more than just nutrition advice. They became their lifeblood for change. 

Because real change happens on a daily basis. And that takes ongoing education and support.


Having a chronic condition – like diabetes – is complicated. It is not a moral failure and it is not something that's easily fixed on one's own. 

Lifestyle plays a huge role (50 percent) in a person developing a chronic condition like diabetes and that is influenced by environment, education, socioeconomic status, and whether they have access to care and support. In other words... it takes a village.

I say this now because I fear, in seeing these confirmatory stats from the CDC and following the narrative of who is more at-risk for COVID-19, we may accidentally perpetuate a story about how people who are at-risk can’t be helped and won’t be protected. 

People with underlying conditions CAN get healthier and their well-being matters. 

Their lives are as important as those without chronic conditions and should be protected. Just because we haven’t -- all together -- cracked the code on getting these individuals the ongoing, lifestyle support they need to improve their outcomes and lower their risk doesn’t mean it’s not within our reach.  

Let's all come together at this time to support each other, whatever our risk may be, and know that people are people... and not their conditions.