National Consumers League

Looking for ROI? Try investing in public health


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92_ayannaBy Ayanna Johnson, Health Policy Associate This week, April 1-7, is National Public Health Week. This year’s theme is Public Health is ROI: Save Lives, Save Money. The public health model relies extensively on prevention—preventing deaths, preventing illness, and preventing high healthcare costs. Since 1995, communities nationwide have celebrated NPHW each April to draw attention to the need to help protect and improve the nation’s health. Investing in public health systems and interventions saves money and certainly saves lives. Every year in the United States, seven out of 10 deaths are due to preventable chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Chronic conditions, like asthma, COPD and diabetes, cost our health care system millions. In fact, chronic diseases account for a whopping 75 percent of national health care spending, yet only 3 percent of our health care dollars go toward prevention. Nearly 45 percent of individuals with a chronic disease require at least one medication. However, one-third of people never fill their prescriptions, which is costly and can lead to unintended health consequences. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, it is now more important than ever to invest in preventative health care, like medication adherence, to manage our growing epidemic of preventable chronic diseases. Poor medication adherence is a national problem that contributes to our growing health care costs, especially among those with chronic conditions. It is estimated that nearly 3 out of 4 Americans don’t take their medications as directed, costing Americans nearly $300 billion per year in avoidable hospitalizations, doctor’s visits, ER visits, and nursing home admission. Improved medication adherence leads to cost savings. Patients with chronic conditions who are adherent to their medications have fewer emergency department visits and hospitalizations than patients who are not adherent, saving as much as $7,800 per patient annually in overall health care costs. And, every additional dollar spent on improving adherence saves $7 in medical costs for people with diabetes; $5 in medical costs for people with high cholesterol, and $4 in medical costs for people with high blood pressure. At the National Consumers League, our campaign to raise awareness of the importance of medication adherence is an example of how improving public health can save money on health care costs in the long run.  The Script Your Future campaign provides patients, their family caregivers, and health care professionals with the tools needed to take control of their health. This includes knowing the right questions to ask a doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professionals about medications. For patients to manage their medications, it is important that they understand their chronic condition, the role of medication, and the importance of adherence. For more information about Script Your Future, visit. www.ScriptYourFuture.org. For more information about National Public Health Week, visit www.nphw.org.