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Study Shows Preventing Illness More Economical Than Treating the Sick

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: health care, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) Investing in preventive health care is far more cost-effective than treating people after they get sick, according to a report from the nonprofit advocacy group Trust for America's Health.

"We've got to change the mindset from treating sick people to preventing illnesses in the first place," said U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin in response to the report.

Researchers calculated how much rates of certain diseases could be decreased by investing money in programs that have been proven to lower smoking rates and increase healthy eating and physical activity. They found that within two years, investment in community health programs could lead to a 5 percent reduction in rates of diabetes and high blood pressure, while significantly reducing rates of arthritis and some kinds of cancer within only 10 to 20 years.

For every dollar invested in community-based preventive health care programs, the researchers found, $5.60 in later healthcare treatment would be saved. Investing just $10 per person could lead to savings of more than $16 billion per year within only five years.

People often think that such programs "[pay] off 20 or 30 years from now," Harkin said, "but this shows you get the money back almost immediately, and then the savings grows bigger and bigger."

The report encourages federal, state and local governments to increase tobacco taxes, ban smoking in public places and require nutrition labels on restaurant menus. It also urges governments to increase funding for community health initiatives, like a program in Dallas that has led to improved eating and physical activity habits among participating youth. Governments can also encourage healthy living through relatively simple and inexpensive measures, the report said, such as keeping sidewalks in good shape.

"What's been interesting is that if you make it easier for people to make better choices, they actually do," said Jeffrey Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health.

Sources for this story include: www.washingtonpost.com.

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