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A Better Way to Estimate Primary Prevention Savings

Primary prevention advocates have long struggled with making a compelling economic argument for the long-term cost savings of policies that promote healthy behaviors. Well, compelling enough, anyway. Especially in these trying economic times, lawmakers are reticent to enact any legislation that has an upfront cost, despite projected savings from reduced health care costs and greater employee productivity. Now, the Campaign to End Obesity has released a new report, “Assessing the Economics of Obesity and Obesity Interventions,” which addresses how policymakers measure the benefits of policies to address chronic diseases.

Researchers found that the problem is due to how the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates costs. Typically, CBO estimates costs over a 10-year period, but as many health and wellness professionals know, complications from chronic diseases often take more than 10 years to manifest (i.e. become costly). Researchers recommend using a 25-year window instead, as it would allow for a stronger and more reliable disease model to inform long-term estimates.

“IHRSA applauds the balanced, solution-oriented approach of this study,” said Helen Durkin, Executive Vice President of Global Policy at IHRSA. “The fitness industry has long believed that primary prevention—including regular exercise and good nutrition—is the most cost-effective solution to obesity and other lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Programs targeted at primary prevention make long-term fiscal sense for Americans and for America—not only in terms of their potential for long-term savings on health care, but also in terms of protecting our country's economic competitiveness.”

To learn more about the report, read the official press release.

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