4 Recommendations to Save Lives & Costs Through Preventive Health

Investing in preventive health is an important strategy in improving population health and decreasing costs, according to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation policy brief.

The brief, "Return on Investments in Public Health: Saving Lives and Money," makes four recommendations based on four major studies on public health and prevention published between 2008 and 2011.


1. Sustain public health investments to improve community health outcomes and reduce medical costs in the long term. This recommendation is based on a July 2011 study in Health Affairs that found for each 10 percent increase in local public health spending, infant deaths decreased 6.9 percent, deaths from cardiovascular disease decreased 3.2 percent, deaths from diabetes decreased 1.4 percent and deaths from cancer decreased 1.1 percent.

2. Preserve and sustain primary prevention programs for chronic diseases in order to save lives and reduce costs.
This recommendation is based on a 2011 Urban Institute study that found reducing the rate of chronic disease growth by 5 percent would save Medicare and Medicaid $5.5 billion per year by 2030.

3. Ensure that efforts to protect health and encourage healthy behavior are a core element of disease prevention.
This recommendation is based on a May 2011 study in Health Affairs that found "protection" — a prevention strategy that enables healthier behavior and safer environments — could save 90 percent more lives and reduce costs by 30 percent within 10 years when added to an initiative that expands insurance coverage and medical care.

4. As a significant cost-savings measure, policymakers at all levels of government should invest in disease prevention programs that are separate and distinct from those that require traditional medical care. This recommendation is based on a 2008 report by Trust for America's Health and RWJF that found an investment of $10 per person annually in evidence- and community-based public health programs could save the U.S. more than $16 billion within five years.

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