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Prevention for a Healthier America: Investments in Disease Prevention Yield Significant Savings, Stronger Communities

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Abstract:

Even though America spends more than $2 trillion annually on health care—more than any other nation in the world—tens of millions of Americans suffer every day from preventable diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer that rob them of their health and quality of life.

Keeping people healthier is one of the most effective ways to reduce health care costs. This study, which was developed through a partnership of the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), The Urban Institute, The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), The California Endowment (TCE), and Prevention Institute, examines how much the country could save in health care costs if we invested more in disease prevention, specifically by funding proven community-based programs that result in increased levels of physical activity, improved nutrition (both quality and quantity of food), and a reduction in smoking and other tobacco use rates.

According to the literature, the per capita cost of many effective community-based programs is under $10 per person. TFAH concludes that making an investment of $10 per person, per year, in proven community-based disease prevention programs could yield net savings of more than $2.8 billion annually in health care costs in one to two years, more than $16 billion annually within five years, and nearly $18 billion annually in 10 to 20 years (in 2004 dollars).

James S. Marks, M.D., M.P.H., senior vice president and director of the health group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, states that: “Our nation needs a sustained investment in disease prevention programs that keep people from becoming sick, not just more treatment for those who are already ill…TFAH’s report provides important evidence that investing more in prevention can help cut health care costs and ensure all Americans live longer and healthier lives.”