The Case for Investing in Public Health


The economic crisis has led to increased demand and reduced resources for health sectors. The trend for increasing healthcare costs to individuals, the health sector and wider society is significant. Public health can be part of the solution to this challenge. The evidence shows that prevention can be cost-effective, provide value for money and give returns on investment in both the short and longer terms. This public health summary outlines quick returns on investment for health and other sectors for interventions that promote physical activity and healthy employment; address housing and mental health; and reduce road traffic injuries and violence. Vaccinations and screening programmes are largely cost-effective. Population-level approaches are estimated to cost on average five times less than individual interventions. This report gives examples of interventions with early returns on investment and approaches with longer-term gains. Investing in cost-effective interventions to reduce costs to the health sector and other sectors can help create sustainable health systems and economies for the future.


  • Acknowledgements
  • About this report
    • Scope
    • Objectives
  • Key messages
  • Overview
  • Background
  • The economic case for prevention
    • Sustainability of current and future costs
    • The cost of health inequalities
  • The benefits of action
    • A summary of the evidence
    • Other considerations: risk and preparedness
  • Conclusions
  • Glossary
  • References

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Public Health: a Return on Investment

B Making the Case for Prevention