Big Savings Possible in Community Health Care Efforts, Research Finds
Investing $10 per person per year in community disease prevention programs could save the U.S. $2.8 billion in health costs over two years and $16.5 billion over five years, according to a study released on Thursday by Trust for America's Health, the Miami Herald reports.
For the report, researchers used a computer model developed by the Urban Institute and reviewed evidence-based studies from the New York Academy of Medicine. The studies analyzed community-based prevention programs that promote physical activity, good nutrition and smoking cessation (Dorschner, Miami Herald, 7/18).
The report provides state-by-state findings that were reached by calculating potential decreases in chronic diseases based on a $10 investment per person. Researchers found that community health programs could reduce the rates of diabetes and high blood pressure by 5% within two years and the incidence of some forms of cancer and arthritis within 10 to 20 years (Greenwell, Washington Post, 7/18).
The rate of heart and kidney diseases and stroke could be decreased by 5% in five years (Wyckoff, CQ HealthBeat, 7/17). The report says that prevention investment increases will lead to healthier U.S. residents who are more productive and more competitive in the world market (Collins, Salt Lake City Deseret Morning News, 7/17).
According to the report, if the five-year projection is realized, there would be a return of $5.60 for every $1 invested, private payers could save more than $9 billion, Medicare could save more than $5 billion and Medicaid could save more than $1.9 billion (CQ HealthBeat, 7/17).
Researchers endorsed prevention initiatives such as smoke-free laws, nutrition labeling on menus and sidewalk maintenance as ways to promote healthy living. The report also called on state and local governments to help create healthier communities but noted that many community health programs lack funding.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) on Thursday at an event to announce the release of the report said, "We've got to change the mindset from treating sick people to preventing illnesses in the first place" (Washington Post, 7/18). Harkin called the U.S. health care system a "sick care system," that spends "peanuts for prevention" (CQ HealthBeat, 7/17).
Trust Executive Director Jeff Levi said, "I think the most important thing about this study is it is the first time we've been able to model how much the health care system could save if we placed a greater emphasis on keeping people healthy through community-level prevention activities" (Salt Lake City Deseret Morning News, 7/17).