WHY IS COMMUNITY HEALTH IMPORTANT?
A healthy community reflects a sense of mental and physical
well being and is the foundation for achieving all other goals. Good health
is often taken for granted but is essential for a productive society. For
example, every community needs a healthy workforce upon which to build
its economy and healthier students are more equipped to learn and be successful
academically. The following graph depicts the impacts and benefits of wellness
in the workplace; however this concept is easily applied to any setting
including an individual or a whole community.
Many factors contribute to a long life, including demographics,
socioeconomics, genetics, the environment and behaviors (Rogers, 1995).
It is important to assess these factors when attempting to increase life
expectancy and improve health status, because positive health practices
result in higher life expectancies and better health.
The value of assessing and improving community health is
evident when looking at life expectancy data. Health improvements are directly
responsible for the 30-year increase in life expectancy from 1900 to today.
Public health prevention efforts such as social policies, community action
and personal decisions are responsible for 25 years of the increased life
expectancy. Of the remaining five years, medical treatment advances account
for 3.7 years and clinical preventive services, such as immunizations and
screening tests, have increased life expectancy 1.5 years (Turnock, 1997).
improvements are directly responsible for 30-years of increased life
The value of community health efforts can also be measured economically
in terms of treatment cost savings:
- The prevention of one AIDS case can result in savings of $119,379
in treatment costs.
- A six-month course of tuberculosis prevention therapy can save
up to $50,000 in the cost of active disease treatment (United States
of Health and Human Services [US DHHS], September 2000, Healthy
In addition, savings on a dollar-for-dollar basis are apparent for
many health programs and services:
- Every dollar spent on prenatal care saves at least $3.38 in short-term
inpatient hospital cost.
- Each dose of pertussis vaccine is estimated to save $11.10 in
future health care cost.
- It is estimated that for every dollar spent on the treatment of
drug abuse, taxpayers would save $7.00.
- For every dollar spent on substance abuse prevention, communities
can save $4 to $5 in costs for treatment and counseling (US DHHS,
September 2000, Healthy People 2010).