Wednesday, January 15, 2014

HEALTH - Investing in Health Early

"Why investing in the health of Americans should start early" PBS Newshour 1/13/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour):  Much of the national focus on improving health care has centered on the expansion of coverage that's starting to take effect.  But a report out today says it's time for the country to pay more attention to the socioeconomic conditions that play a role in health outcomes, especially for lower-income Americans.

The recommendations, issued by a nonpartisan commission created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, call for new investments like pre-k education for children under 5.

David Williams is a professor at Harvard's School of Public Health.  He was a staff director for the commission as well.

And, for the record, the foundation is one of our sponsors for health coverage.

Professor Williams, it's good to have you with us.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So what is the rationale for thinking that doing something about socioeconomic conditions is going to be connected to a health improvement?

DAVID WILLIAMS, professor at Harvard's School of Public Health:  Well, first, the larger context is, as a nation, we have a huge problem.  We spend more money on medical care than any other country in the world.

According to the World Bank, half of the money spent on medical care in the world annually is spent in the United States.  Yet we rank among -- at the bottom of the industrialized world on health and we are losing ground over time.  So we have a crisis.  And the problem is not just a problem of the low-income individuals and the poor.

Even the best-off Americans are not currently achieving a level of health that is possible.  And more medical care spending will not solve it.  We now need to look at what are the drivers of health in the first place.

Our health care system is wonderful.  We have great facilities.  We have the best-trained medical work force in the world, but to a large degree, medical care is a repair shop that takes care of us once we get sick, and it doesn't determine whether we get sick or not in the first place.

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