Why invest in prevention?
Well-chosen prevention investments have been proven to enhance and lengthen life. Since 1900, the average U.S. lifespan has increased by more than 30 years. Twenty-five of these added years are attributed to investments in prevention, including childhood vaccines, improvements in motor vehicle safety, and cleaner water.1
Treating preventable diseases and disabilities is costly. The cost of care for preventable conditions is growing.2 For example, an increasing proportion of adults and children are diabetic and overweight/obese, two conditions that can often be avoided with healthy diets and adequate physical activity. These conditions are costly to treat, in part, because they increase risks for other serious health problems.3-6 Similarly, treating cardiovascular disease and cancer resulting from tobacco use has always been expensive and remains so.7 The toll of these largely preventable health conditions goes beyond the monetary cost of treatment. Productivity, quality of life, and independence are also at risk.
Many recognized prevention services are underutilized. Half of all disease, injury, and premature death in the United States is potentially preventable.8 Although preventive measures shown to improve the health of Americans of all ages already exist, many are underutilized. The most highly recommended prevention strategies are meticulously documented in the Guide to Clinical Preventive Services and the Guide to Community Preventive Services.
For more information on the value of disease prevention, see the Partnership for Prevention publication, Guide to Smart Prevention Investments.
Healthy People 2010 is a set of national health objectives with ten-year targets. It was developed through a broad consultation process led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services using the best scientific knowledge available to achieve two goals: 1) to increase quality and years of healthy life and 2) to eliminate health disparities.
The document contains 28 focus areas with a total of 467 objectives. Some objectives set targets for reducing premature death, disease, or injuries; some for reducing risk factors such as tobacco use or underage drinking; and yet others for implementing strategies, such as increasing to 100% the number of workplaces with policies that restrict smoking.
In addition to the overarching goals and specific objectives, Healthy People identifies ten leading health indicators—including physical activity, tobacco use, injury prevention, and immunizations—to focus attention on a small set of major public health concerns.
DATA 2010 tracks data online for most of the Healthy People 2010 objectives. Use it to find out: How many children under age 4 die in motor vehicle crashes annually? What portion of U.S. adults smoke or are overweight? What portion of women over 50 has received a mammogram? And much, much more.
The Health Plan Employer Data and Information Set (HEDIS) is the tool most widely used to examine and compare U.S. health plans. It is a set of guidelines to measure health plan performance in areas known to affect health outcomes, ranging from breast cancer screening to immunizing infants to customer satisfaction. HEDIS is produced by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), an independent, non-profit organization. The NCQA has concluded that accountability and quality are closely linked. That is, health plans that publicly report their performance on delivery of preventive services achieve better results than those that do not.
The Guide to Clinical Preventive Services is the definitive guide to prevention in clinical settings. It is developed and periodically updated by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a panel of independent experts in prevention and primary care. The USPSTF is convened by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to identify a core set of clinical services known to improve health. Recommendations of the Task Force are reviewed by a wide variety of partner organizations, including federal health agencies and primary care specialty organizations. These recommendations are so highly regarded that they have been called the “gold standard” to which employers and health plans should refer when designing benefit programs.
AHRQ has developed a comprehensive program, Put Prevention Into Practice, to make it as easy as possible to implement these recommendations. One PPIP resource, for example, is the Clinician’s Handbook of Preventive Services, which contains summaries of recommendations on screening tests, immunizations, and counseling by major authorities (including the USPSTF), instructions for performing recommended services, and other information to help providers deliver preventive care in health care settings.
The Guide to Community Preventive Services picks up where the Guide to Clinical Preventive Services leaves off. It details the most effective community-based strategies to promote and safeguard health; strategies such as expanding insurance coverage, implementing broad-based health education campaigns, and enforcing drunk driving laws. The Community Guide is being developed by the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, an independent, non-federal task force convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Partnership for Prevention: A non-partisan health policy research organization based in Washington, D.C. It brings together experts from industry, academia, and federal, state and local government agencies to develop evidence-based policies to advance disease prevention and health promotion. Partnership’s mission is to improve health by preventing illness and injury.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ): The lead federal agency charged with supporting research to improve the quality of healthcare, reduce its cost, address patient safety and medical errors, and broaden access to essential services. AHRQ sponsors and conducts research that provides evidence-based information on healthcare outcomes, quality, cost, use, and access. The information helps health care decision-makers-patients, clinicians, health system leaders, and policymakers-make more informed decisions and improve the quality of health care services.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The lead federal agency responsible for protecting the health and safety of people in the U.S. and abroad by providing credible information to enhance health decisions, and promoting health through strong partnerships and training activities. With more than 8,500 employees across the country, CDC plays a critical role protecting the public from the most widespread, deadly and mysterious threats to health.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ten Great Public Health Achievements-United States, 1900-1999. MMWR 1999;48(12):241-43.
2. Institute for the Future. Health and Health Care 2010: The Forecast, The Challenge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers; 2000.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes: A Serious Public Health Problem. At-A-Glance. Atlanta, GA: CDC; 2000.
4. National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2000, with Adolescent Health Chartbook. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2000.
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical Activity and Good Nutrition: Essential Elements for Good Health. At-A-Glance. Atlanta, GA: CDC;2000.
6. Mokdad AH, Serdula MK, Dietz WH, et al. The Spread of the Obesity Epidemic in the United States, 1991-1998. JAMA 1999;282(16):1519-22.
7. US Department of Health and Human Services. Reducing Tobacco Use: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: USDHHS, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2000.
8. McGinnis JM, Foege WH. Actual Causes of Death in the United States. JAMA 1993;270(18):2207-12.