What is ROI and why is it important to public health?

What is ROI and why is it important to public health?


Return on investment (ROI) is a metric that shows how much economic profit a program generates in comparison to its cost. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in utilizing ROI to illustrate the worth of public health programs in the public sector. Quantifying the return on investment in reducing health care expenditures, human service costs, correctional spending, and minimizing loss in economic output of individuals who are compromised due to chronic illness is vital for public health.Below are two examples of ROI.

  • “Economic research and neuroscience research is clear: spending money on early childhood development, particularly up to the age of three, pays off in a big way,” says economist Arthur Rolnick, co-director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Rolnick feels it is the finest public return on investment we can make, and that funding early childhood programs is not only morally correct, but also economically prudent.
  • The Aspen Institute’s Health, Medicine, and Society Program’s executive director, Ruth Katz, says: “The economic argument for public health is strong. America’s economic engine is powered by healthy workers. According to Gallup polling statistics, chronically ill employees miss 450 million more workdays than healthy employees. The indirect costs of preventable chronic illness, according to the Institute of Medicine, are more than $1 trillion every year. Reduced health-care costs for companies lowers the cost of producing goods and services for global marketplaces.”

Strategic thought, long-term vision, and political will to commit resources today in order to reap advantages later are all required to improve public health. “Every 10% increase in local public health spending reduces death rates by between 1.1 to 6.9%,” according to research by Glen Mays, PhD, MPH, of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health. Should we focus our efforts on increasing children immunization rates or on containing a disease outbreak? Do we fight to create tobacco-free environments and limit young people’s access to nicotine, or do we watch (and pay for) the high costs of nicotine addiction and chronic disease?


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question: What is ROI and why is it important to public health?

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