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Want to Strengthen US Competitiveness? Promote Preventative Health Care

The United States could save $217 to $303 billion in annual health care costs if businesses and governments adopt existing evidence-based health promotion and chronic disease prevention methods.

The United States could save $217 to $303 billion in annual health care costs if businesses and governments adopt existing evidence-based health promotion and chronic disease prevention methods, according to a report released last week by the Vitality Institute.

The report, developed by the Vitality Institute Commission on Health Promotion and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases in Working-Age Americans, is the result of more than a year of research and debate among some of the country’s top public health experts.

 It specifically notes that improving health promotion and chronic disease prevention efforts among working-age individuals is essential to strengthening America’s economic competitiveness.

The Vitality Institute convened the Commission on Health Promotion and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases in Working- Age Americans in 2013-14 with the goal of placing the power of evidence-based prevention at the center of health policies and actions in the US. The Commissioners, a nonpartisan group of distinguished thought leaders from the private, public, and social sectors, developed five catalytic recommendations to improve the health of the working-age population nationwide.

The group came up with some specific recommendations:

Invest in prevention science --Prevention science, as the systematic application of scientific methods to the causes and prevention of health problems in populations, should be supported. It should also be extended beyond epidemiology and public health to include behavioral economics and new personalized technologies. Health education and leadership should reach beyond public health and policy to include medicine, law, architecture, technology, ergonomics, human factors, transportation, and agriculture.

Strengthen and expand leadership to deliver a unified message for health and prevention --Advocates of prevention in the public and private sectors should be coordinated and join in common cause to develop coherent messages supporting a culture of health. A credible and influential multisector network should be developed that operates synergistically, using evidence-driven advocacy for the value of prevention. This includes local leaders who tackle challenges and implement solutions tailored to the needs of their communities.

Make markets work for health promotion and prevention -- Markets should be stimulated to encourage consumers to purchase and use healthier products and services. New products, services, and technologies for healthier lifestyles should be commercialized with the support of incentives and structures that favor innovation and early adoption.

Integrate health metrics into corporate reporting -- Companies should generate shared value by integrating standardized metrics on the health of their workforce into annual financial reports. Forward-thinking business leaders will understand that the health of their workforce is an asset: Human capital is core to sustained competitive advantage.

Promote strong cross-sector collaborations that generate a systemic increase in health promotion and prevention across society-- Non-health sectors should be engaged to tackle all factors that influence health. Advocates for health should understand the priorities of other sectors where they aspire to make progress, and should work collaboratively to develop policies and a case for prevention.

See the full report, “Investing in Prevention: A National Imperative Key Findings and Recommendations of the Vitality Institute Commission on Health Promotion and the Prevention of Chronic Disease in Working-Age Americans.

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