Improved Outcomes Seen from Investments in Public Health Programs

Researchers assess the monetary value for improved health status.

California’s county health program returned $67 to $88 of value in improved health outcomes for every dollar initially invested, a recent study found.

"The very large estimated return on investment for California county departments of public health, relative to the return on investment for selected aspects of medical care, suggests that public health is a wise investment," said researcher Timothy Brown, PhD.

This study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, analyzed health outcomes from investments made in public health programs.

Previous studies found that public health spending improved the health status of the population for 4 years and saved 29,000 lives who would have died within a 10-year period. In the current study, researchers created a monetary value for improved health status through the subjective well-being valuation method.

"A decrease in general health status that reduces happiness is statistically valued by the amount of family income it would take to completely reverse this reduction in happiness, so that happiness is the same as it was before the decrease in general health status occurred," Dr Brown said.

According to the study, 1 year in good or excellent health could be valued at $41,654. For diseases such as type 2 diabetes, stroke, and breast cancer, researchers found that the returns on Medicare expenses varied from $1.10 to $4.80 for every dollar spent.

However, researchers caution that their findings do not indicate how to optimize public health investments.

"Investments in research must go hand-in-hand with investment in public health activities to obtain the long-term improvements in population health that we all work toward,” Dr Brown concluded.