With the advancement of modern technology, antibiotics and vaccinations have allowed humans to live longer. Deadly infections like strep throat and measles are now considered an inconvenience. The main reason for this phenomenon is the medical revolution of the 20th century. Although Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1929, the full potential of antibiotics was not recognized until the 1940’s. This decade marked the commercialization of penicillin and opened possibilities for new classes of medications like corticosteroids. By the 21st century, pharmaceutical companies perfected the craft of antibiotics and designed them to treat specific infections. Consequently, as humans live longer, chronic illness has become more prevalent in contemporary society. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), chronic diseases are the “leading cause of mortality in the world representing 60% of all deaths”. Contrary to popular opinion, chronic diseases are more prevalent in developed nations such as Europe and America. By 2025, it is estimated that nearly half of the American population (49%) “will be affected by a chronic disease”.
My personal experience with chronic illness served as inspiration for my thesis. At the age of five, I was diagnosed with severe asthma. The following year, I was hospitalized with pneumonia for nearly a month. Despite my health issues, I had a supportive family and grew up relatively well. During my freshman year of college, I hardly experienced any respiratory or allergy problems. Unfortunately, this time period was very short-lived. Due to rapid expansion, the natural flora and fauna of the desert has changed significantly within the last decade. Throughout the remainder of my undergraduate experience, I had a series of respiratory relapses that resulted in numerous medical withdrawals. In addition to health problems, I discovered the college environment poses unique challenges for students with chronic illnesses. Ultimately, this led me to delve deeper into this topic for my thesis.