More spending on public health results in a healthier population, study

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While some wonder if increases in public health spending actually makes for a healthier population, a recent study published in “Health Affairs” says that research conducted in the current climate suggests that the more money spent on public health, the healthier the people who are supposed to have benefited from it.

The study tracked spending over a time period of 13 months, specifically focusing on spending by local public health offices and examining whether the money spent contributed to changes in the mortality rate from preventable causes of death.

Among preventable causes of death listed were infant mortality and deaths due to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

Glen P. Mays, the new F. Douglas Scutchfield Endowed Professor in Health Services and Systems Research at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health co-authored the study along with Sharla A. Smith, a research associate in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

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The mortality rates that were studied were found to have dropped from one to seven percent after public health spending was increased by 10 percent.

With Medicare and Medicaid being two of the largest public health spending incentives in the U.S., there has been much cause to analyze public health spending in the past. A recent study, National Health Spending Projections Through 2020: Economic Recovery And Reform Drive Faster Spending Growth, authored by Sean P. Keehan, et al, says, “Robust growth in Medicare enrollment, expanded Medicaid coverage and premium and cost-sharing subsidies for exchange plans are projected to increase the federal government share of health spending from 27 percent in 2009 to 31 percent by 2020.”

With more and more being spent on public health care, U.S. taxpayers are sure to want to know whether or not there is benefit coming from the expenditure.

When interviewed about the results of the study, Mays said, “Although a definitive causal link between spending and mortality cannot be drawn, the study does provide compelling evidence that communities must pay attention to more than local medical resources and interventions, but also to the resources invested in local public health activities to truly make a difference in the health of their people.”

Though the study does not prove conclusively that more spending equals a healthier population, it has proven to be a foundation for further research and shines a positive light on that spending which has already taken place.

Image credit: morguefile

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