Preventing Disease

January 6, 2012 • Volume 22, Issue 1
Can lifestyle changes reduce rising health care costs?
By Nellie Bristol


First lady Michelle Obama brings her Let's Move campaign to the New York Police Athletic League's Harlem Center (Getty Images/Mario Tama)
First lady Michelle Obama brings her Let's Move campaign to the New York Police Athletic League's Harlem Center on Nov. 18, 2010. The program stresses the importance of exercise and healthy eating in combating childhood obesity, which has more than tripled since 1990. (Getty Images/Mario Tama)

The U.S. health care system faces spiraling costs from chronic, or noncommunicable, illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and preventable cancers. But public health experts are discovering that just pushing people to change bad habits isn't working. Instead, they are placing more focus on “making the healthy choice the easy choice” through such efforts as reformulating processed foods and making streets safe for walkers and bikers. Some in Congress and the Obama administration made a big push for community-based disease prevention approaches, but concerns over the budget deficit could result in major cuts to the Prevention and Public Health Fund enacted as part of the 2010 health reform act. However, some say the government is overreaching in its war on obesity, and studies show that some prevention efforts add to health care costs. The fight against preventable disease is not a U.S. problem alone. In poor countries, the biggest threats are the same ones afflicting Americans: lack of exercise, smoking and unhealthy diets.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Dec. 02, 2022  Long COVID
Oct. 29, 2021  COVID-19 Vaccines
Jan. 08, 2021  Health and Society
Nov. 20, 2020  The Public Health System
Jul. 17, 2020  The Pandemic Economy
Jun. 26, 2020  Zoonotic Diseases
May 08, 2020  CTE and Athletes
Jan. 24, 2020  Conquering Rare Diseases
Sep. 13, 2019  Measles Resurgence
Nov. 30, 2018  Obesity Crisis
Jun. 15, 2018  Superbug Threat
Jun. 02, 2017  Pandemic Threat
Jul. 22, 2016  Mosquito-Borne Disease
Feb. 13, 2015  Emerging Infectious Diseases
Nov. 08, 2013  Lyme Disease
Jan. 06, 2012  Preventing Disease
Apr. 02, 2010  Breast Cancer
Sep. 12, 2008  Heart Health
Aug. 24, 2007  Fighting Superbugs
Jan. 13, 2006  Avian Flu Threat
Jun. 20, 2003  Fighting SARS
Apr. 05, 2002  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Mar. 09, 2001  Diabetes Epidemic
Mar. 02, 2001  Mad Cow Disease
Dec. 24, 1999  Asthma Epidemic
Aug. 05, 1983  Multiple Sclerosis
May 27, 1983  Chronic Pain: The Hidden Epidemic
Sep. 24, 1976  Influenza Control
Sep. 16, 1970  Virus Research
Mar. 14, 1956  Progress Against Polio
May 25, 1955  Degenerative Diseases
May 25, 1949  Chronic Disease
Mar. 01, 1924  The Foot and Mouth Disease
Medical Research and Advocacy