Prevention Saves Lives and Dollars
Prevention measures are the most proven and effective way of keeping costs low and improving Americans' health. Yet, it seems these measures are at the front of the line to get eliminated in the rush to "cut costs" from the health-care reform package. Prevention measures didn't even get the respect of a cost score from the Congressional Budget Office. This is a totally backwards way of thinking.
A report released last year by the Trust for America's Health showed that for every dollar we invest in prevention, we save $5.60. If we invested $10 per person in prevention, we would save $16 billion nationwide within five years. That is an astounding rate of return -- not only in dollars, but in health, peace of mind and improved worker productivity.
As a purely political point, prevention is also overwhelmingly popular. A study released in June by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America's Health showed that "more than three-quarters of Americans (76 percent) support increasing funding for prevention programs that provide people with information and resources and creating policies that help people make healthier choices. Investing in prevention is popular across the political spectrum, with 86 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of Republicans, and 70 percent of Independents supporting investing more in prevention."
Prevention measures must also recognize that where we live affects how we live. To be truly healthy, Americans need access to fresh food, clean air, and safe places to play. Some places are starting to understand that. Take the city of Richmond, Calif., for example. They are looking beyond the usual avenues to ensure healthy residents. They are, of course, doing the much-needed work of expanding access to health clinics and medical services. But they're also making sure all residents have access to fresh, healthy food; clean, reliable public transportation, affordable, well-kept housing; and safe, nearby parks. The early returns are promising and should be replicated.
As we work for better prevention measures, we also must remember that health inequities have put low-income communities and communities of color most at risk. By bringing prevention to all communities, we can make a tremendous difference in the lives of millions of Americans.
Angela Glover Blackwell
July 21, 2009; 4:05 PM ET
Health Care Reform
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