Americans spend nearly $2.6 trillion each year on healthcare, but have some of the lowest life expectancies in the developed world. In addition, rates of infant mortality, diabetes, and other chronic conditions are at an all-time high when compared to the rest of the globe.
Part of the reasoning behind the high rates of disease and decreased lifespan, public health experts note, is a lack of preventative care in the United States.
Preventing diseases is one of the most common, and least expensive ways to keep Americans healthy, but unfortunately, much of the American medical system aims to address medical conditions after they occur.
“A disproportionate share of the $2.6 trillion we spend on healthcare each year goes toward treating the sickest people–covering mostly high-cost hospital care for preventable chronic conditions like heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer,” writes health expert Risa Lavizzo-Mourey.
She goes on to say that, “Healthcare spending and lost productivity tied to smoking alone, for example, totals over $193 billion a year. It is estimated that obesity rates are responsible for $34.3 billion and $27.6 billion in additional spending in Medicare and Medicaid respectively, and $74.6 billion in higher spending by private health insurers.”
In contrast, strategies that are proven to prevent disease and promote health are woefully underfunded. For every dollar that Americans spend on healthcare, less than four cents goes to programs aimed to prevent these diseases in the first place.
The solution to this epidemic is more simple than it sounds. Since more than half of Americans live with chronic illnesses, more must be done to ensure that individuals have access to community-based prevention. Not only will this ensure a number of Americans avoid contracting preventable diseases, but it will also ease undue burdens on the U.S. economy.
These investments have proven to pay off over time. According to research by Trust for America’s Health, spending a mere $10 per person per year in programs that help educate the public by promoting physical activity, teaching about nutrition, and preventing addiction to drugs and alcohol have the potential to save Americans over $16 billion per year. It also helps to ensure that employees are engaged in their workplace environments, adds money to the economy, and helps businesses to thrive.
Health insurance, which often dominates the national narrative to solve America’s health concerns, is merely one piece of the solution to keeping Americans more healthy. In order to ensure that costs of healthcare remain low, doctors and nurses must be prepared to talk about preventative services with patients, including young people, who are less likely to seek regular doctor visits. They also need to inform patients about proper diet and nutrition, as well as by informing patients that inactive lifestyles can be just as harmful as smoking.
By embracing a more robust health insurance model and adopting preventative strategies, our health care model will be alarmingly more effective and ultimately save American lives. In the years preceding Trump’s presidency, there was a definitive push for value-based care that was proving to improve quality of life while slowing the cost growth.
While many are unsure what healthcare way look like in months to come, preventative and holistic care has already proven to be valuable in the longevity and health of American citizens. If we want Americans to continue to live long, productive, and worthwhile lives, it’s important that these approaches be prioritized.