There are so many discussions going on about health that it is hard to keep track of which policy would make the most impact. Too often it is a case of holding on to the old models that defined the business of health care. Just as business has learned that fundamental aspects of their models were flawed the best health policies change some of the fundamentals of the current health debate. A good place to start is to rethink the purpose of prevention.
Prevention may save money and it may not. Last month Health Affairs reported that “... hundreds of studies have shown that prevention usually adds to medical costs instead of reducing them.” As The Washington Post pointed out, when prevention works it extends life and there are the costs of using health care over those additional years of life. Also prevention requires reaching large population groups and that requires resources.
The additional costs of prevention is a matter of what we value. The benefits of breathing with ease from not smoking, not dying young from cancer through early detection, or not having a heart attack from starting to exercise are well worth the costs.
The cost savings through prevention is not what should make it worth doing but rather how it contributes to the vibrancy and productivity of our society. Prevention is important simply because it is the right thing to do.