Better Prevention as Better Health Policy

This really is a surprise to no one by now, but a forthcoming article in the American Journal of Public Health states that US medical costs could drop significantly if there were a greater investment placed in public health and preventative measures. Bloomberg Business Week reports on this fiscal sense:

The study authors concluded that reducing the prevalence of diabetes and high blood pressure by 5 percent would save the nation about $9 billion a year in the near term. In addition, conditions related to those health problems would also be reduced, which would increase the savings to about $24.7 billion a year in the medium term.

It seems that a slight investment in public health upfront means big payoffs in long-term costs. Thoughts?

About Beata Bujalska

Beata Bujalska is the former Campaign Coordinator for Renew Lehigh Valley. She currently lives in Panama, a place that fascinates her due to (among other reasons) its recent development boom.

Posted on November 23, 2010, in Health, Trends and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Known, preventable, reportable discharges of toxins result in an estimated 500,000+ deaths in the U.S. every year — imagine how many illnesses they must cause!

    Just this year studies demonstrated that the overwhelming cause of cancer is environmental pollution.

    Right here in the LV, we can see the disastrous effects of unchecked vehicle pollution, with excess Diesel pollution causing dozens of deaths each year — and that doesn’t even count the chronic illnesses: respiratory, cardiac, and cancer.

    If fracking isn’t regulated very seriously — much more stringently than anything discussed to date — the acute and chronic health effects will be hard to miss.

    And imagine the number of chronic illnesses that result from food produced by the industrialized food system, even though the disastrous health impacts have been known for years.

    Public health experts, advocates, and administrators need to speak out loud and clear on these issues instead of spending all their energy and billions of dollars on things like flu vaccinations, when the flu [even H1N1] is a tiny effect compared to these environmental health impacts.


    Peter Crownfield
    Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley
    Sustainability & Public Health Initiative
    Bethlehem, PA 18015

  2. I would like to echo the plea for a better, more sustainable food system in the United States. Elementary schools should not be allowed to serve a rotation of pizza, chicken fingers, tacos, and turkey in elementary and middle school. Diabetes and other diet-related conditions weigh heavily on the health system. When the government feeds children, as it does through schools, it should take care to establish consumption practices that are mindful and healthy.

    There are a slew of health and environmental problems caused by the whole chain of industrial food production. Tighter regulation, phasing-out of farm subsidies, and probably a system of disincentives for sodas and junk food would go a long way to reducing diabetes, high blood pressure, and the related costs.

  3. Peter & Katie — Thanks for the comments and for pointing out the important connection between public health and environmental protection. Food production is also a crucial piece of all of our health and another way that stronger public health can help our nation’s residents be healthier.

    In what ways do both of you think that government should intervene? Should it be only about regulation, or a balance between regulatory mechanisms and incentives?

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