Public Health Spending Saves Lives

Today’s Managing Health Care Costs Indicator is 5%

Click to enlarge; * statistically significant  Source 

This week, Health Affairs  e-published research correlating higher local spending on public health with lower mortality.  The article points out that the US spends less than 5% of health care costs on pubic health initiatives, less than we spend on administrative overhead in health benefit claims.

Public health spending, which can include anti-smoking education, childhood and influenza vaccines, and sexually transmitted disease and prenatal education, increased in about 2/3 of communities from 1993 to 2005, and decreased in the remaining communities studied.   

From the article:
Communities with larger increases in public health spending experienced larger reductions in mortality from leading preventable causes of death over a thirteen-year period. This relationship was consistent across several different mortality measures, and it persisted after accounting for differences in demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, medical resources, and unobserved community characteristics that jointly influence spending and health. These findings are consistent with recent time-series studies estimating that, nationally, as much as 50 percent of the gains in life expectancy experienced in the United States since 1950 are attributable to public health attention to diet, tobacco exposure, and other measures

This study validates one of the elements of the Affordable Care Act, which includes an additional $15 billion in public health spending.  It also suggests that improving health of communities can lengthen life, and perhaps lower medical claims costs.