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Chronic illness is the number one health care problem in the United States. However, the health care system has been slow to adapt from a focus on acute conditions. There are similarities and differences between acute and chronic illness. Acute illnesses are usually isolated to one bodily area and respond to treatment. In contrast, long-term conditions frequently involve multiple systems and have an uncertain future. Acute and chronic illnesses are similar in that coping with any health problem, depending on the severity of the condition and the resources available, is a challenge to those afflicted. Chronic illness usually requires more care and resources to maintain normalization in lifestyle. The predominate need of a person with a chronic illness is nursing care. Consequently, nurses have a vital role to fulfill in helping people who have long-term conditions and their family caregivers cope with the illness.