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Prevention vs. TreatmentWhat's the Right Balance?$
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Halley S. Faust and Paul T. Menzel

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199837373

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199837373.001.0001

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Prevention vs. Cure

Prevention vs. Cure

An Economist’s Perspective on the Right Balance

3 Prevention vs. Cure
Prevention vs. Treatment

Louise B. Russell

Oxford University Press

Three questions are addressed in this chapter: Does prevention reduce medical costs? Does the U.S. spend too little on prevention? Should it spend more (and if so, on what)? Since much of the evidence comes from cost-effectiveness studies, a brief explanation of how cost-effectiveness analysis is used to evaluate medical interventions is provided. The evidence, from hundreds of studies published over the last four decades, shows that most preventive interventions add more to medical spending than they save, even as they improve health. With prevention, as with so much else, it costs more to get more. Moreover, the U.S. spends considerably more on prevention than commonly thought (see chapter 2 of this volume), even without considering the vast array of preventive activities outside the medical sector. Prevention is not a solution to the health care cost problem. Each intervention needs to be evaluated individually and the goal should be to find the most effective mix of health services, the one that makes the best use of our resources to improve health and extend life, whether through prevention or treatment.

Keywords:   cost savings, health care costs, health priorities, prevention, health improvement, life extension, cost, effectiveness

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