Not only have many public health interventions in the United States been hugely successful, but they’ve also saved more money than they’ve cost.
And yet Americans spend relatively little money in that domain and far more on medical care that returns less value for its costs. Instead of continually complaining about how much is being spent on health care with little to show for it, maybe we should direct more of that money to public health.
What Do We Mean by Public Health?
It encompasses efforts made to improve the health of a broad population with investments not ordinarily considered “health care.” For example, ad campaigns that encourage better health behaviors — like exercising or quitting smoking. Or efforts to improve housing and nutrition for low-income populations or the quality of air or drinking water for everyone.
An obvious success is vaccines. In the 1900s, polio and smallpox were eliminated in the United States. Other diseases — such as measles, rubella, diphtheria — became very, very rare.