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U.S. Spends Too Little on Public Health Initiatives: Report

Just $251 per person goes annually toward programs to prevent costly chronic diseases

[Note: Thanks to Betty Johnson and Ida Heilander for forwarding this report. The U.S. National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council has yet to be funded.]

US News: HealthDay April 10, 2012

TUESDAY, April 10 (HealthDay News) -- The United States needs to spend more on its chronically underfunded public health system and use that money more efficiently, according to an Institute of Medicine report released Tuesday.

The United States spends more on health than any other nation -- nearly $2.5 trillion in 2009 -- but has lower scores on life expectancy, infant survival and other indicators of population health than other wealthy nations, according to the report.

Public health department initiatives, services and expertise can help prevent or decrease rates of chronic diseases that account for the bulk of rising U.S. health spending, the authors report.

However, only 3.1 percent of U.S. health spending went to government-administered public health in 2009, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid's National Health Expenditure Accounts. That works out to $251 per person in public health spending, compared with $8,086 per person in medical care spending.

The report calls for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish new goals for life expectancy and per-person health spending. The hope is that setting targets will motivate public health and medical care professionals to work together to maximize the value of health spending, and that public health skills and knowledge are used to address some of the biggest issues facing the larger health care system, such as the unnecessary use of medical procedures.

To achieve efficient use of public health dollars, the report recommended that the U.S. National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council -- created by the Affordable Care Act -- should establish the minimum level of public health services every community should receive from its state and local health departments.

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