ROI – and What We Value - by OPHA President, Randi Love, PhD
What is it that we value? If someone from outer space were to look at our society what would they see? They might see things that would puzzle them. They would see that we spend over $900 million on fireworks per year which could fund all of NIH’s childhood injury study programs for 18 years. They would see that we spend $12 billion annually on unused gym memberships. This amount could fund the CDC’s Nutrition, physical activity and obesity prevention program for more than 350 years. The U.S. weight loss market is valued at over $60 billion which is 800x the FDA’s budget for food safety.
Public health strategies are responsible for much of the dramatic increase in life expectancy over the past 100 years. Public health leaders, like you, are adapting these strategies to address the current threats to health, including the growing burden of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression, and risk factors such as obesity and exposure to violence
Recent research has demonstrated the value of public health and prevention in saving lives and controlling health care costs. A 2011 study concluded that local public health spending was associated with reduced mortality from the leading preventable causes of death. For every 10% increase in public health spending, there was an 8.7% reduction in infant mortality and a 3.2% reduction in heart disease deaths. A 2008 ROI analysis of community based programs calculated that Ohio could potentially save $685 million in health care spending by investing in programs to increase physical activity, improve nutrition and prevent tobacco use (6 to 1 ROI).
What is it that we value? Would Americans say they value health if asked? Most certainly they would. Why the disconnect? Health is the most precious of all commodities. It seems like a no brainer to invest in public health. Unfortunately, health is too often viewed as under the purview of the individual, not a community responsibility. Prevention, although understood intellectually – it’s better to prevent something from happening – is not especially sexy. The public is more likely to respond to easy solutions, to want absolute answers, to have other priorities, to lack a future orientation. It is up to us to change the paradigm, to more effectively estimate the benefits of prevention and the consequences of neglecting those investments. We need to look for opportunities to incentivize healthy behavior (information provided at point of purchase on caloric density and metabolic trade-offs of food choices, restrictions in neighborhoods on the concentration of alcohol outlets, etc.). Ultimately, we need to play to the challenge and embrace the prospect of payoff to society. The prospect of engaging in overcoming odds appeal to those of us who take special gratification in and are committed to taking on tasks in part because they are difficult.
We are the Ohio Public Health Association whose mission is to be an inclusive voice for public health and to enable the achievement of optimal health for every Ohioan. In other words we exist to advance the value of public health. If you are a member please tell others about the value of OPHA. If you are not a member, please consider becoming one.