The two biggest challenges in chronic disease are preventing the disease in the first place, and managing the condition effectively when it arises. Both of these are long-term challenges that are best addressed through an effective and ongoing relationship between the health-care provider and the patient, based on mutual respect, trust and appropriate interventions. The primary care setting is where this long-term relationship is most often established and where interventions occur. Secondary and tertiary levels of care provide opportunities for treatment and shorter interventions at moments when the patient might be highly receptive (usually associated with the onset or worsening of a condition).


As members of interprofessional collaborative teams, nurses have important roles to play in the prevention and management of chronic diseases:

  • Nurses are usually the first — and most consistent — point of contact for patients.

  • Nurses are often in the best position to gather information about a patient’s family, as well as social, cultural and economic factors that might be important to developing an intervention.

  • Nurses are frequently in a position to use their skills in health education, helping patients develop prevention and management strategies appropriate for their personal and family situations that also make the best use of community resources.

  • Nurses are skilled at assessment, ongoing care, education and family support.

  • Nurses play an important advocating role for people living with chronic diseases.