Promoting health, preventing disease: is there an economic case?

This new policy summary reviews some of the economic arguments for investing in a number of different areas of health promotion and noncommunicable disease prevention. It argues that there is a substantial evidence base on the effectiveness of a wide range of actions, addressing some of the main risk factors to health including tobacco and alcohol consumption, impacts of diet and patterns of physical activity, children's exposure to environmental harm, the protection of mental health and road safety. While some of these interventions will generate direct cost savings, many will require increased investment but generate additional health (and other) benefits.

This new publication draws on a major international study undertaken jointly by the Observatory, OECD and WHO/Europe, that collates the evidence on investing in health promotion and non-communicable disease prevention. This study, that will be published next year as a book "Health Promotion, Disease Prevention: The Economic Case", forms the basis for one of the evidence pillars for WHO's Health 2020 strategy.

The policy summary was presented at a special event in London on 4 November 2013 hosted by England's Department of Health to inaugurate the newly established partnership with the Observatory, promoting and facilitating international knowledge transfer in health policy making.