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3. The case for public health

The financial and social costs of premature deaths and preventable illness are considerable. Costs relate not only to the treatment and care provided by health and social services, but also to the impacts in other sectors such as education, criminal justice, and the workplace.

Preventing ill-health is beneficial for individuals and makes financial sense. Studies have shown that investment in public health programmes and interventions can save money over time. A significant return on investment from public health interventions is seen in many different areas. Figure 2 illustrates the return on investment for active travel intervention.

Public health interventions - return on investment

Figure 2. Public health interventions – return on investment

Return on investment for alcohol

Alcohol related harm is estimated to cost UK society £22 billion per year, of which £3.5 billion is the cost to the NHS, £11 billion resulting from alcohol related crime, and £7.3 billion from lost productivity.[1] In this context, the state saves £5 for every £1 invested in motivational interviewing for people with drug and alcohol problems.[2] These savings directly benefit health care, social care and criminal justice systems.

Return on investment for housing

In housing, £1 invested in targeted adaptations to make homes warm, safe, and free from damp saves £11 in terms of hospital admissions for hypothermia, respiratory conditions and accidents.

Return on investment for children

Investing in children is particularly effective in the long run and can help break the intergenerational cycle of disadvantage. School based anti-bullying and smoking programmes save £15 for every £1 invested as a result of lower health care costs, improved school attendance and better educational outcomes. In addition, parenting programmes for children with reduced behavioural disorders pay back £8 over 6 years for every £1 spent.

[1] Institute for Alcohol Studies accessed on 9/3/15.

[2] Kings Fund and Local Government Association. Making the case for Public Health Interventions.