Public-Health Measures Are Cost Effective
Public-health measures like smoking bans are more effective than individual efforts in fighting disease, according to a new study.
An analysis published in the “New England Journal of Medicine” by Dave A. Chokshi, MD, of Harvard and Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Thomas A. Farley, MD, MPH, of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found some noticeable differences between the cost of public measures and clinical and individual inventions. Environmental interventions – a ban on smoking, for example - were cost effective 46 percent of the time, while clinical interventions (interactions with health care providers) were cost effective 16 percent of the time and person-to-person interventions (talks between relatives or friends) were cost effective just 13 percent of the time.
The study analyzed 2,815 analyses of cost effectiveness in all three categories and concluded, "Even if the effect of an altered environment on each person is small, the cumulative population effect can be large." The authors cited a study showing that a tax on sodium reduced salt intake by 6 percent and lowered the incidence of heart disease and stroke; it also saved $22.4 billion in health care costs.
In recent weeks, Mayor Bloomberg of New York City has recommended a ban on supersize sugary drinks.City officials will vote on the measure in September.