When public health funding increases in a community, its rates of infant mortality and deaths due to preventable diseases decrease over time, with low-income communities experiencing the largest health and economic gains, according to new research released today at the American Public Health Association’s 141st Annual Meeting in Boston.
According to the research, each 10 percent increase in public health spending over 17 years led to a 4.3 percent reduction in infant mortality, as well as reductions of 0.5 to 3.9 percent in non-infant deaths from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and influenza. However, these health gains were 20-44 percent larger when funding was targeted to lower-income communities. Increases in public health spending also correlated with lower medical care costs per person, especially in low-income areas. Lower death rates and health care costs were particularly pronounced within communities that allocated their public health funding across a broader mix of preventive services.
Interestingly, the authors also note that public health spending in lower-socioeconomic communities creates more health gains and cost reductions than the same level of spending in higher-income locations. In the study, changes in public health spending and population health patterns were analyzed using data compiled by the National Association of County and City Health Officials among 3,000 local public health agencies in the U.S. over a 17-year period.
“The results clearly show that better health and lower health care costs are possible if we simply change how and where we allocate public health funding, even if new money isn’t available,” said Glen Mays, PhD, MPH, director of the University of Kentucky’s National Coordinating Center for Public Health Services and Systems Research and APHA Annual Meeting presenter. “It also shows that new resources, such as funding from the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention Fund, can have a larger impact if targeted to lower-resource, higher-need communities and if spread across a range of prevention strategies.”
Authors note that even when public health funding does not increase, allocating resources across a broader mix of preventive services can improve a community’s overall health over time.
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