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  • TFAH Releases Strategies to Improve Nation's Health in 4 Years

    A new report that seeks to move the nation from "sick care" to "health care" encourages all employers, including federal, state, and local governments, to provide effective, evidence-based workplace wellness programs.

    Trust for America's Health's (TFAH) A Healthier America 2013: Strategies to Move from Sick Care to Health Care in Four Years outlines top policy approaches to respond to studies that show that (1) more than half of Americans are living with 1 or more serious, chronic diseases, a majority of which could have been prevented; and (2) today's children could be on track to be the first in US history to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents.

    The Healthier America report stresses the importance of taking innovative approaches and building partnerships with a wide range of sectors in order to be effective. Some recommendations include:

    • Advance the nation's public health system by adopting a set of foundational capabilities, restructuring federal public health programs, and ensuring sufficient funding to meet these defined foundational capabilities;
    • Ensure insurance payment for effective prevention approaches both inside and outside the physician's office;
    • Integrate community-based strategies into new health care models, such as by expanding accountable care organizations into accountable care communities; and
    • Work with nonprofit hospitals to identify the most effective ways they can expand support for prevention through community benefit programs.

    Healthier America features more than 15 case studies from across the country that show the report's recommendations in action. It also includes recommendations for a series of 10 key public health issues.

    After the report's release, economic experts came out against TFAH's position on preventive care's role in reducing health care spending. (See related article posted in News Now titled "Experts Say Preventive Care Produces Limited Savings.")   

    Experts Say Preventive Care Produces Limited Savings

    While some disease-prevention programs do produce net savings, such as childhood immunizations and counseling adults about using baby aspirin to prevent cardiovascular disease, most preventive care does not save money, says an article by Reuters News.

    Following the release yesterday of a new report from Trust for America's Health (TFAH) that calls for putting more resources into preventive care, economic experts challenged TFAH's position on preventive care's role in reducing health care spending. (See related article posted in News Now tilted "TFAH Releases Strategies to Improve Nation's Health in 4 Years.")

    "Preventive care is more about the right thing to do" because it spares people the misery of illness, economist Austin Frakt of Boston University told Reuters. "But it's not plausible to think you can cut health care spending through preventive care. This is widely misunderstood."

    A 2010 study in Health Affairs, for instance, calculated that if 90% of the US population used proven preventive services, more than do now, it would save only 0.2% of health care spending.

    One reason why preventive care does not save money, say health economists, is that some of the best-known forms don't actually improve someone's health. These low- or no-benefit measures include annual physicals for healthy adults.

    The second reason preventive care brings so few cost savings is the large number of people who need to receive a particular preventive service in order to avert a single expensive illness.

    A promising approach is to target preventive care at those most likely to develop a chronic disease, not at low-risk people. Such "smart" prevention increases the chances of preventing expensive diseases and saving money.

    In contrast, unthinking expansion of preventive medicine is the wrong prescription, the article says.