Return on Investments in Public Health

Saving Lives and Money

America spends $2.7 trillion annually on health care—more than any other nation. Too often, however, the health care system focuses more on treating disease and injury after they happen. The United States spends hundreds of billions of dollars annually to treat
preventable illnesses and diseases. For instance, health care expenditures tied to smoking total $96 billion. Costs associated with conditions caused by obesity include more than $43 billion for hypertension and nearly $17 billion for diabetes.

Part of the reason the United States spends so much on health care is that millions of Americans are in poor health. Chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes are responsible for seven in 10 deaths among Americans each year, and account for nearly 75 percent of the nation’s health spending. Approximately 45 percent of the population has at least one chronic health condition.

Creating a culture of health in the United States requires a commitment to prevention. Preventing disease and injury is the most cost-effective, common-sense way to improve
health; despite this fact, for every dollar spent on health care in the United States today, only about four cents goes towards public health and prevention. A variety of recent reports and studies show that strategic investments in proven, community-based
prevention programs save lives and money.

This brief summarizes the findings from major studies on public health and prevention released between 2008 and 2013.

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