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Monday, August 8, 2011

A Little Public Health Funding Goes a Long Way

A recent report from Health Affairs shows that increased public health spending and improved practices can help community mortality by reducing the rates of preventable deaths.

In the study, with just a 10 percent increase in public health spending, mortality rates fell between 1.1 and 6.9 percent. And the results were most significant in low-income communities. Just a small rise in spending saved a lot of lives!

The study notes that “preventable causes of death” include infant mortality as well as deaths due to cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And although the United States spends more than most other developed countries on health care per capita, we are behind many in outcomes, including mortality. We may spend more on health care, but less than 5 percent of our national health spending is on public health activities—and an improvement here could help us catch up to other countries in terms of health outcomes, while saving money and lives.

Republicans in Congress want to cut back programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP—all of which offer health care and public health services, including preventive care, to seniors, children, parents, people with disabilities, and pregnant women. This report should help Republicans remember the significance of these public health programs and every dollar that goes into them. A little more money can make a huge difference, and even the smallest cuts may deny essential treatment to those with life-threatening conditions who could not otherwise pay for care.

The evidence shows that supporting public health programs goes a long way in saving lives. These programs are essential in increasing the overall health outcomes of Americans and therefore saving money down the road. Now is the time to protect public health programs and make sure that we are not sacrificing lives that could otherwise be saved to balance the nation’s budget.