There are multiple viewpoints to take when deciding where to spend our healthcare dollars, but economically speaking, a little prevention is worth more than a lot of treatment. If a person is being treated for an illness or disease, it means that person is being prevented from living a fully normal life. Financially, the cost of that disease isn't only the medication or doctors time, or insurer's administration costs, it's also lost wages and productivity from missed time at work. Beyond that, diseases lead to lost opportunity and costs for families, like childcare, home care, and other services. Prevention on the other hand has none of these hidden costs and time spent suffering with a disease. An example that highlights the low costs of prevention, and high cost of disease treatment is HIV. According to the surgeon general, every HIV infection costs approximately $355,000 over a lifetime of treatment.(1) Prevention can be as small as a lesson in school or a box of condoms. According to Laura Martin M.D. in an article published on WebMD, prevention of cardiovascular disease and obesity could save the United States many billions of dollars in treatment, lost productivity and early death.(2) The preventative measures, like buying and cooking more fruits and vegetables, can actually save money up front and improve health outcomes saving money later on. With all of the evidence for prevention being a high value investment, I would slowly but steadily increase the budget for preventative medicine. An ideal value to eventually spend would be 50% on prevention and 50% on treatment. Many diseases aren't preventable. We as a society can't leave those individuals who do have diseases without care. But increasing the budget for prevention will save money, and must be prioritized and increased.
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