Web First: Increased Public Health Spending Reduces Preventable Deaths

A new study, released online recently as a Web First by Health Affairs, found that increased public health investments can produce measureable health improvements. The study, which will also appear in the journal’s August issue, analyzed changes in spending patterns and mortality rates within the service areas of nearly three thousand local public health agencies between 1993 and 2005. See below:

Evidence Links Increases In Public Health Spending To Declines In Preventable Deaths
By Glen P. Mays and Sharla A. Smith

“To measure spending, the authors used information from the National Association of County and City Health Officials and other sources. They looked at county-level infant mortality rates and age-adjusted mortality rates for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and influenza, all measures expected to be sensitive to public health interventions. They found that between 1993 and 2005, public health spending increased among 65% of local public health agencies, by an average of $6.16 per person, for a total of $40.84 per person in 2005. In communities that increased public health spending by 10 percent, mortality levels declined measurably: infant mortality rate declined 6.85 percent; heart disease deaths per 100,000 population declined 3.22 percent; and deaths from diabetes and cancer declined 1.44 percent and 1.13 percent respectively.) “Our results suggest that additional spending, such as the $15 billion in new federal funds authorized under the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, would be expected to generate substantial improvements in population health over time,” conclude the authors. “By measuring spending levels in specific programmatic areas such as tobacco control, nutrition, and physical activity, it may be possible to identify more precise relationships between investments and health outcomes.”