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Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2009 Jun;103(6):537-40. doi: 10.1016/j.trstmh.2008.12.008. Epub 2009 Jan 19.

The vital signs of chronic disease management.

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  • 1International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, Paris, France.


The vital signs of pulse rate, blood pressure, temperature and respiratory rate are the 'nub' of individual patient management. At the programmatic level, vital signs could also be used to monitor the burden and treatment outcome of chronic disease. Case detection and treatment outcome constitute the vital signs of tuberculosis control within the WHO's 'DOTS' framework, and similar vital signs could be adapted and used for management of chronic diseases. The numbers of new patients started on therapy in each month or quarter (new incident cases) are sensitive indicators for programme performance and access to services. Using similar reporting cycles, treatment outcomes for all patients can be assessed, the vital signs being: alive and retained on therapy at the respective facility; died; stopped therapy; lost to follow-up; and transferred out to another facility. Retention on treatment constitutes the prevalent number of cases, the burden of disease, and this provides important strategic information for rational drug forecasting and logistic planning. If case numbers and outcomes of chronic diseases were measured reliably and consistently as part of an integrated programmatic approach, this would strengthen the ability of resource-poor countries to monitor and assess their response to these growing epidemics.

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