That’s at least how much this country could save in health care costs and worker productivity if people lived healthier lives and if the health care system helped them do it.
A recent national study announced in a press release by the Milkin Institute reported that 40 million cases of seven chronic diseases — cancers, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, mental disorders and pulmonary (lung) conditions — could be prevented in the year 2023. How? By re-orienting the focus of health care resources more toward prevention and early detection of disease, rather than focusing primarily on treatment. In other words, let’s head off disease before it happens, rather than waiting until we get sick.
The study concluded that this would reduce anticipated treatment expenses associated with the seven diseases and improve productivity by $1.1 trillion that year. The report notes that the most important factor is obesity, which if rates declined could lead to $60 billion less in treatment costs and $254 billion in increased productivity. We know from other sources that the obesity epidemic in this country is already leading to an alarming increase in Type II diabetes — not only in adults, but in children as well.
To reduce the human and economic cost of disease, the Milken Institute calls for:
• More incentives to promote prevention and early intervention, and
• A renewed national commitment to achieve a “healthy body weight.”
“By investing in good health, we can add billions of dollars in economic growth in the coming decades,” said Ross DeVol, Director of Health Economics and Regional Economics at the Milken Institute and principal author of the report. “The good news is that with moderate improvements in prevention and early intervention such as reducing the rate of obesity, the savings to the economy would be enormous.”
We have been hearing from our doctors for years that that by choosing more nutritious food, exercising regularly and reducing the stress in our lives, we can take significant steps toward improving our health as well as preventing disease, suffering and premature death. Now, policy think tanks, government agencies and insurers are telling us that we can save money as well.
So what is stopping us?