The Economy of Health

The economic impact of recent financial woes of our ailing economy is unmeasurable. The policy changes which will follow are unpredictable. The changes that will occur with the Health reform initiatives are unknown. However, one thing is for certain, there will be changes.

I am not the financial specialist but I do realize that when the economy is not so healthy, the budgets of state and federal organizations can  become sick.  This can result in decreased funding for programs that support Health initiatives which focus on population health improvement. Therefore, potentially reducing innovative research aimed at technology, practice improvement, and chronic disease management. Without new solutions to improve population health the cost of healthcare could continue to rise.  

The cost of treating preventable chronic diseases and  related illnesses account for a disproportionate share of the health care cost in this country. The people who bear  most of this burden are the uninsured and under-insured. A 2009 Harvard study showed that the US has an excess of 44,800  deaths per year due to a lack of insurance. When I hear this number I wonder about the cost of healthcare leading up to the death. Whether it was an acute event or a chronic disease you can imagine that the cost can get pretty significant for someone without the proper insurance.   US statistics show that almost half of all foreclosures and nearly 62 percent of bankruptcies are caused by financial issues stemming from medical costs.

With the changing economy we must make sure we leave some money on the table to improve the health of this nation. To improve health outcomes we must assure that our population has access to evidence based preventative health care. It will also be even more important that our communities wake up and take advantage of the education and training that is offered for the prevention of chronic diseases. The weight of improving the Healthof the nation lies mostly with the public. Lifestyle changes have been shown to be a most important factor in the prevention of  most of the common diseases that are associated with the highest morbidity and mortality rates. This includes Obesity, Diabetes, Hypertension,  Heart Disease, Substance Abuse, and common forms of cancer.

The World Health Organization reported that the US has the highest health care cost, we rank 37th in performance (health care outcomes), and 72nd when it comes to overall level of health. Make no mistake! The US is the best place to be if you have an acute illness but when it comes to taking care of the population and it’s chronic diseases, we don’t do so good. If you have good health care and an education you fair much better than those without one or the other or both.

I have difficulty sometimes with understanding the stock market and the financial systems. Again that is not my area of specialty. However, I am hoping that we can gain a stable “Economy of Health” that will enable this country to continue to provide for programs  that support innovative technology and approaches which will change our Health Care System to one that is more efficient (reduce cost) and produces better health outcomes.

One comment Add your comment

Wayne Oliver - vice president, Center for Health Transformation

August 14th, 2011
4:39 pm

Well written, Dr. Mack! We must stimulate innovation by fundamental FDA reform and by developing incentives for individuals (and patients) to remain healthy. Regardless, preventive medicine is the best medicine.