WHO Europe has released a brand new report: Investing in public health offers large gains in health, the economy and other sectors
Alcohol use costs the EU €156 billion every year. These and other facts came to light in a report published by WHO Europe on the long- and short-term effects of a country’s health status on its financial and economic situation.
The report is entitled: “The case for investing in public health”.
It describes the direct implications of health in other areas of government in several European countries and throughout the WHO European Region. The report thus shows that health should be a significant concern across all government sectors. The report was released during the fourth meeting of the extended advisory group on the European Action Plan on Public Health Capacities and Services (EAP/PHS), held in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Dr Elke Jakubowski, Programme Manager for Public Health Services in the Division of Health Systems and Public Health, presented the report:
“There are four key observations we can make from this study.
“The first is that increasing costs of ill health will require cost-effective policies.
“Second, this report provides the evidence for a wide range of cost-effective prevention approaches.
“Third, investing in public health generates cost-effective health outcomes.
“And fourth, even small investments promise large gains to health, the economy and other sectors. I believe this is a report we can truly be proud of.”
Investing in public health leads to sustainable growth
The case for investing in public health includes the significant current costs of ill health for governments in Europe and the investments that can result in sustainable, sometimes nearly immediate, positive growth in a country. Cost-effective interventions include preventive approaches to the environmental and social determinants of health; such approaches build resilience in communities and promote healthy behaviour in the population, including attendance at screening and vaccination.
“This important report is welcome and timely when governments across Europe are pursuing austerity policies involving deep cuts in public spending. Governments need to be made aware of the value of investing in public health and how cost-effective this investment is”, said David Hunter, Chair of the meeting, Professor of Health Policy and Management and Director of the Centre on Public Policy and Health, Durham University, United Kingdom.
The report also outlines the cost of health inequalities and the financial loss that can occur if health threats are not addressed proactively. For example, cancer costs governments and society in the European Union €117 billion per year.
Strengthening public health services and capacity: A key pillar of the Europe regional health policy framework, Health 2020
The economic crisis has led to increased demand and reduced resources for health sectors. The trend for increasing healthcare costs to individuals, the health sector and wider society is significant. Public health can be part of the solution to this challenge.
The evidence shows that prevention is cost-effective, provide value for money and give returns on investment in both the short and longer terms.
Population-level approaches are estimated to cost on average five times less than individual interventions. This report gives examples of interventions with early returns on investment and approaches with longer-term gains. Investing in cost-effective interventions to reduce costs to the health sector and other sectors can help create sustainable health systems and economies for the future.