David F. Warner, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. As a social demographer, he focuses on the development and consequences of ill-health. His primary stream of research is concerned with multimorbidity, which is the co-occurrence of chronic health conditions, functional limitations, and other age-related conditions outside the traditional disease paradigm. As part of a multidisciplinary research team with colleagues from several other institutions, he is using Medicare Claims data linked to the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to examine how such complex clinical presentations affect older adults’ perceptions of their health and their healthcare use, particularly among vulnerable populations (e.g., individuals with cognitive impairment, cancer survivors, racial/ethnic minorities).
He is investigating how older adults present with multiple chronic diseases and multiple functional limitations, and how chronic diseases and functional limitations also co-occur with what the medical/health services disciplines refer to as “geriatric syndromes”—other common age-graded conditions (e.g., vision impairment, incontinence) that are outside of the traditional disease paradigm. Geriatric syndromes are significant because they present situational challenges that make navigating the physical and social world difficult. Although scholars have recognized the importance of comorbidity (having two chronic diseases), research and clinical practice remains organized largely around a “one-disease-at-a-time” approach, or considers multimorbidity only in terms of having three or more chronic diseases—rather than to be attuned to the specific combinations of chronic diseases and other conditions that may exacerbate the effect of chronic diseases.