News Dedicated to a Healthy Workplace December 2012
Prevention Is Good Business
The facts are sobering. Missouri has an uninsured population of approximately 877,000 (about 15 percent of the state’s population). More than 30 percent of Missourians are now obese, and the diabetes rate is nearing 10 percent. And while decreasing, about 21 percent of the state’s residents still smoke. Health care costs are on the rise, creating challenging road blocks for businesses, individuals and providers. Although the United States spends more money than any other nation on health care, our citizens are not healthier. 

Not all of the facts about our health care system are negative. As a nation and as a state, we are taking steps to make improvements. As various provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) move forward, the St. Louis business community continues to consider the implications – both on the state and national levels. It is critical to examine the importance of a key component embedded into the ACA: prevention. 

Putting prevention at the core of health care makes sense, both logical and fiscal. It shifts a system that is largely focused on treating people after they become sick to preventing diseases before they occur. Chronic conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, lead to seven out of 10 deaths in the U.S. each year and account for 75 percent of our nation’s health care spending.1 

The ACA begins to shift our health care system from sick care to well care by improving access to health coverage, enhancing payments for primary care providers under Medicare and Medicaid and developing a national strategy to improve health and well-being. The health reform law makes staying healthy easier by removing cost sharing and co-payments for preventive services. 

A focus on prevention contributes to a larger goal of sustaining our workforce. A healthy workforce is an important part of advancing our business and economic sector through enhanced productivity and corresponding revenues. As Missourians become healthier, our state will see a healthier workforce and a business sector better able to compete in a global marketplace. 

Additionally, an emphasis on prevention is essential to yielding long-term savings in beginning to control health care spending. For example, investing $10 per person each year on proven, community-based programs that increase physical activity, improve nutrition and prevent smoking is estimated to save our country $16 billion annually within five years and could save Missouri $334 million per year.2 

I encourage you, as a member of the St. Louis business community, to promote health behaviors and choices among your employees and business peers – and ensure that employees are well equipped to make the most of the preventive services available to them. It is up to us to work together as a community to guarantee that the forecasted business and economic benefits associated with preventive care are realized. 

This article was written by Robert G. Hughes, CEO and President, Missouri Foundation for Health. It recently appeared in the St. Louis Business Journal

1U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund in Your State,, 2012. 

2Trust for America’s Health, Prevention for Healthier America: Investments in Disease Prevention Yield Significant Savings, Stronger Communities, 2009.

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