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Prevention Institute

Health Reform Rapid Response: April 8, 2013

Investing in Prevention Brings a Big Return—by Saving Lives and Money

Investing in public health saves lives and money and that’s the most important kind of ROI (return on investment). This year’s National Public Health Week, which took place last week. was all about ROI and it came at  a critical time for the prevention and public health movement. Congress recently passed a budget extension, which leaves largely intact the cuts imposed by sequestration. To make matters worse, some members of Congress are already working to cut  funding from the Prevention and Public Health Fund in next year’s budget. 

Prevention champions made a great case during Public Health Week for the need to maintain investments in prevention and public health. In this alert, we break down the best prevention stories of last week and providing talking points you can use to educate lawmakers and the public on why federal investment in prevention needs to be a top priority. 

Here are some stories that address return on investment (ROI) and make the case for prevention:

  • Tennessean columnist says: Preventive care saves money and lives. This piece explores the successes of both preventive care and primary prevention, making the case for programs, policies and services that save money and lives, in the first place: “Part of our problem is that our health system spends almost everything on care for people who are already sick. Spending on prevention (far, far fewer dollars per person) is too often viewed as a luxury, when it actually saves money and saves lives.”
  • Wisconsin Rapids Tribune makes the case:  Prevention, public health, save lives, money: This column, in a rural midwestern newspaper, outlines the benefits of  prevention.  “Research shows that investing just $10 per person each year in proven, community-based public health efforts can save the nation more than $16 billion within five years (Trust for America’s Health, 2009). That’s a $5.60 return for every $1 invested. I don’t know about you, but that’s a great payoff in any economic climate. The data is clear regarding the value of prevention to our lives, our pocketbooks and our futures, and we all have a role to play in making our communities healthier places.”
  • KYForward.com:  State observes national public health week with focus on public’s return on investment:  The Kentucky Dartment of Public Health promoted National Public Health Week by spreading the word about public health’s return on investment: “Our nation and community simply cannot sustain the current trajectory of health care spending and chronic disease rates,” said Mayfield (WHO?). “Fortunately, we know that investing in prevention and public health can make an enormous difference and it’s the right direction for Kentucky to move to address poor health outcomes... She said research shows that each 10 percent increase in local public health spending contributes to a nearly 7 percent decrease in infant deaths, a 3.2 percent decrease in cardiovascular deaths and a 1.4 percent decrease in diabetes-related deaths.”
  • Healthnewstrack.com:  Affordable Care Act highlighted by Kathleen Sebelius on National Public Health Week:  Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius used National Public Health Week as an opportunity to frame how  Prevention and Public Health Fund dollars prevent debilitating health conditions: “In addition, the Prevention and Public Health Fund supports Community Transformation Grants, which empower communities to use evidence-based interventions to prevent heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and other conditions by reducing tobacco use, preventing obesity, and reducing health disparities... These initiatives and the health care law’s investments in public health are focused on keeping people healthy, intervening early to address chronic disease risk factors, and demonstrating how public health can show ROI—a return on investment.”

Here are some other new resources you can put to use:

  • Check out the video.  A new APHA video helps bring to life the benefits of investing in public health.  “Public health is vital to our well-being, from the food we eat to the air we breathe, from our personal health to the effectiveness of our nation’s health system,” said Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of APHA (in the video ?). “We hope this new video will help educate policy makers and the public about the important role public health plays in our lives every day and the significant value it delivers in saving lives, saving costs and improving quality of life over the long term.”

  • Hot off the press. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation just released its latest report:  Return on Investments in Public Health:  Saving Lives and Money, on the social and economic benefits of investing in public health and prevention. “Investments in primary prevention programs will not only help slow the chronic disease rate, but have also been shown to lower private insurance costs and improve economic productivity while reducing worker absenteeism. In fact, savings achieved through prevention programs can significantly and quickly outweigh initial, upfront investments.” 

Tips to guide your conversation:

  • If we’re serious about fiscal responsibility, we need to invest in prevention. Every dollar we invest in prevention generates over five dollars in savings down the road. Investments in comprehensive prevention bend the cost curve and stem the rising tide of expenditures on preventable chronic diseases.
  • Investing in prevention is an investment in everyone’s future. Health inequities put low-income communities and communities of color most at risk. The Prevention and Public Health Fund brings prevention to underserved communities to help foster health, not disease. Without these meaningful investments in prevention, we’ll all be left behind.
  • Prevention is good for businesses’ bottom lines. Right now, local businesses spend $153 billion each year on chronic diseases that are preventable - money that could instead be spent to hire more workers, reinvest in the business, and support a vibrant, healthy workforce. Investing in prevention isn’t just good for our health, it’s good for business, too. 
  • Cutting funds for public health and prevention takes away the opportunity for millions of Americans to lead healthy lives. ACA’s prevention measures have supported communities across the county to change their environments as they create safe, walkable streets, promote access to healthy food, support local worksite wellness, and safeguard tobacco-free air -- exactly the changes that can improve our country’s health.

What you can do: 

  • Write a letter to the editor or post a comment on a news story in support of public health and prevention funding. Send us an email if you get published, and we’ll include it in our next Rapid Response.
  • Practice framing your prevention work in terms of return on investment by using our online tool to contact your legislator and tell them why you oppose additional cuts to public health and the Prevention and Public Health Fund.  

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