Prevention pays

Gary Finnegan

Gary Finnegan

August 20th, 2014

Gary Finnegan

‘Public budgets are under pressure across Europe, leading some countries to pare back on preventative health spending. But investing in prevention can reap significant savings in the long run.’

vaccination-cafeDr Mark Connolly of Global Market Access Solutions (GMAS) says that governments should invest in programmes that reduce the chances that people will miss days from work or drop out of the workforce altogether.

He has been working to measure the impact of preventative health strategies to help governments and others to make informed decisions about how to spend their limited resources.

A new GMAS case study in The Netherlands, looking at seven vaccine-preventable diseases, shows that prevention pays.

“When people become disabled it has a double effect. Not only do governments lose the tax revenue from a person who was gainfully employed, but there can also be disability associated with that which can cost governments $20,000 or $30,000 a year,” he says.

Looking at a group of 50-year-olds, he has calculated the return on investment that can be delivered by effective adult immunisation strategies. “For every €1 invested in immunisation programmes, you would get €4 in return over the projected life of these individuals,” he told Vaccines Today.

Hildrun Sundseth, European Women’s Health Institute says a broad range of patient and consumer groups, along with health professionals, should advocate for prevention. It is, she says, essential to the future of the health service.

“People are living much longer than before so we need to have investment in prevention in order to reduce the chronic disease burden. This is a way to keep the health system sustainable.”

Yet prevention programmes are sometimes seen as “soft targets” when budgets come under pressure, according to Dr Ian Banks, Men’s Health Forum. He says cutting prevention programmes is “short-sighted”.

It should not be a question of spending on health prevention at the expense of existing services. “I get tired of the old argument that to have prevention we have to close hospital wards or sack doctors,” says Dr Banks, who argues that protecting public health can have positive impacts in other policy areas.

“One of the real paradoxes is that politicians or civil servants see cutting prevention programmes as a soft option when it comes to austerity. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. By investing in prevention, you will impact the economy in a positive fashion.”

Dr Banks expressed frustration that public protests on health issues or debate in the media invariably focuses on curing or treating illnesses. “It’s rare that we see people getting really upset about the very positive nature of vaccination, for instance. We need far better championing of prevention in society.”

Dr Daphne Holt, Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (COMO), said the impact of disability causes by diseases such as meningococcal septicaemia can be profound.

“It’s not just the victim, it’s the whole family. You can to look at the human costs. Prevention is by far the best way to go about these things. For me, it’s a no-brainer,” she said.  

Videos recorded at the Health Through Prevention conference in Brussels hosted by Vaccines Europe. The event was attended by officials from industry, patient groups, medical associations, EU institutions and the OECD.