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The most effective way of lowering healthcare costs starts with each of us managing our own health. Preventive steps like these can help Americans avoid chronic diseases:
Some chronic diseases and their complications can be prevented. In fact, a nonprofit health advocacy group, Trust for America’s Health, issued a report in July 2008 which studied the impact of community health programs for physical activity, healthy eating, and smoking cessation. The study found that within 2 years, these programs can reduce levels of diabetes and blood pressure by 5% and, within 10 to 20 years, some forms of cancer. It also found that states could save up to $9.90 per $1 invested in prevention programs, resulting in millions of dollars over just a few years.4
Curbing the rate of obesity is a major step in the fight against chronic diseases.
Obesity rates can be walked back, literally. Programs combining more exercise and better nutrition can make a difference for adults and kids in obesity and related chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Decreasing tobacco use can also make an impact in the fight against chronic diseases:
Vaccines offer another critical path to prevention. Vaccines help prevent acute illnesses. And, they have become an exciting tool in preventing some chronic diseases.
The key to making vaccines effective is getting people to take advantage of them, particularly adults. Each year, between 40,000 and 50,000 adults die from vaccine-preventable diseases; more than from breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, suicide, HIV or car wrecks. The flu is extremely unpredictable. Each year from 1976 to 2007, a range of 3,000 to 49,000 Americans died from influenza.4 The annual US economic burden of flu alone is more than $87 billion.5
To lower costs, incentives in the healthcare system must focus to keep people well rather than treat them after they are ill. Programs that encourage active lifestyles, healthy choices, smoking cessation, cancer screenings, vaccination, and other ways to prevent diseases will go a long way to lower costs.