Prevention is generally acknowledged as a key factor in fighting chronic health issues. I don't think there is anyone who would dispute the fact that quitting smoking, while incredibly hard to do, vastly reduces your chances of lung cancer among other nasty illnesses. (I pick smoking as my example here because I am on day 22 without nicotine right now.)
Since these chronic issues consume so much of the expenditures made on health care, it is only natural that prevention should come to the fore as we attempt to craft a new system. As obesity and diabetes statistics skyrocket this becomes more and more obvious. What is interesting is a new report that has just been released which addresses a species of prevention not often spoken of in debates: Community-Based Disease Prevention.
Wow. Encouraging numbers. Granted, like most things, implementation is a whole different ball game, but it still provides a goal to shoot for. One thing is confusing though. What exactly is "Community-Based" disease prevention?In its report - commissioned by The California Endowment -- entitled Prevention for a Healthier California: Investments in Disease Prevention Yield Significant Savings, Stronger Communities, the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and Prevention Institute and the Urban Institute find that an investment of just $10 per person per year in proven community-based disease prevention programs to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and prevent smoking and other tobacco use could save California's health care system more than $1.7 billion within five years. This represents a return of $4.80 for every dollar spent.Furthermore, in 10-20 years the savings could grow to more than $1.9 billion annually, which would be a return of $5.40 for every $1 invested.
Community-based disease prevention programs are things that impact health outside of the doctor's office, such as planning communities to have sidewalks to encourage walking; keeping school athletic facilities open after normal school hours so that youth have a safe haven to engage in physical activity; making fresh fruits and vegetables easily available in communities where there are few or no supermarkets; and implementing local ordinances that prohibit smokers from lighting up in public areas, among many others.I have no trouble seeing the positive effect such measures could have on both individual health care and on the collective financial bottom line. Of course, much like herding cats, it will be an adventure getting the majority of people to actually utilize or participate in these programs, options and efforts once they are in place.
As always the variable is human behavior, although with so much to gain if may well be possible. I guess we will have to wait and see.
SOURCE: "Report Finds Community-Based Disease Prevention Saves California Money and Improves Californians' Health" 10/23/08
photo courtesy of kcjc009, used under its Creative Commons license