Economics of Wellness

source: Blueprint for a Healthier America

“It’s time for a sea change from our current sick care system to a true health system, where we focus on preventing disease and improving quality of life,” said Richard Hamburg, Interim CEO and President of TFAH.  “In the Blueprint, we highlight high-impact policies that could help spare millions of Americans from preventable health problems and save billions in avoidable healthcare costs – if we make them a priority.”

The report highlights pressing crises and how investments could yield positive returns on investment by adopting proven health strategies.  For instance:

  • Investing $1 in substance use prevention to realize as much as $34 in return.  Deaths from prescription painkiller use have more than quadrupled in the past 15 years and deaths from heroin have tripled since 2010, contributing to higher death rates among middle-aged Whites.  Five of the strongest school-based substance use prevention strategies have returns on investment ranging from $3.8:1 to $34:1.
  • Saving more than $16 billion through a more active and healthy population. One in three children will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime and one in four young adults are not healthy enough to join the military.  An investment of $10 per person in proven, evidence-based community prevention programs to increase physical activity, improve nutrition and reduce tobacco use could save the country more than $16 billion annually – a $5.60:1 return.
  • Connecting health and social services to cut billions in costs.  Health and social service coordinating systems that address gaps between medical care and effective social service programs – by connecting patients in need with programs ranging from supportive housing to food assistance – could yield between $15 billion and $72 billion in healthcare savings a year within 10 years, according to a new analysis by TFAH and Healthsperien.
  • Reducing the $120 billion spent annually on preventable infectious diseases.  Fifteen years after 9/11 and 11 years after Hurricane Katrina, when health crises such as new infectious diseases arise, the country still scrambles to implement emergency plans and secure funding.  Preventable infectious diseases cost the country more than $120 billion annually – and that cost is exponentially compounded when new diseases emerge.
  • Realizing a 7-10 percent annual return by investing in early childhood education. More than half of U.S. children – across the economic spectrum – experience adverse experiences, such as physical or sexual abuse, and more than 20 percent live below the poverty line, which increases their risk for “toxic stress” – living under a constant state of stressful conditions – that can contribute to a range of physical, mental and behavioral health issues.  Investments in early childhood education can help mitigate against impact of these risks and increase resilience, while also providing an annual return of 7 to 10 percent per year, and supportive nurse-family home visits for high-risk families show a return of $5.70:1.


Blueprint for a Healthier America 2016: Policy Priorities for the Next Administration and Congress