What is the real cost of prevention?


Some economists say that prevention isn’t cost effective. However there are actually three types of prevention a nuance that most policy makers and economists miss.

  1. Primary prevention- preventing a disease or problem in the first place.
  2. Secondary prevention – has to do with preventing progression or impact of an existing disease.
  3. Tertiary prevention is softening the impact a disease may have on a person’s life.

Research is now showing that many who suffer from mental illness have a genetic predisposition to certain conditions such as bipolar, depression, anxiety and a increased risk for suicidal thoughts.

So there is some evidence from new studies that is finding isolated genes that are responsible for such conditions. What if we could find out with a simple blood test ? We could know from early on and utilize all 3 prevention types to reduce our potential risks.

Current treatment for mental health is difficult and climbing an uphill battle. Many find out they or their loved one suffers from mental illness when it’s already at a pretty advanced level. What if we could know in infancy or childhood? Think of the difference that would make. Just like if diabetes runs in your family you teach your offspring ways to minimize their risk factors.

We can do the same for mental illness.

Here are the statistics

There is one death by suicide in the US every 11 minutes (CDC)

There is one completed suicide for every estimated suicide attempt (CDC)

Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15- 24 years old.(CDC)

Suicide is the 4 th leading cause of death for adults 18-65. (CDC)

The financial toll on society is also costly. Suicide and Suicide attempts cost the nation over 70 billion per year in lifetime medical and work loss costs alone.(CDC)

The average costs of out of pocket expenses is 287 a month per person.

IN 2019 12 MILLION ADULTS AGED 18 and older reported having serious thoughts of suicide, and 3.5 million adults made suicide plans, 1.2 million adults made plans and attempted suicide, 217,000 adults made no plans and attempted suicide (NIMH)

So now let talk about not just the person suffering from mental health but everyone else around them.

“SUICIDE is like a pebble in a pond. The waves ripple outward. The reach of the pebble’s waves is much greater than the size of the pebble itself.”

Ultimately, in the way that a pond is changed because of a pebble, an entire community can be changed by a suicide. ” According to a 2016 study it is estimated that 115 people are exposed to a single suicide, with one in five reporting that this experience had a devastating impact or caused a major life disruption. “

Many people are afraid to talk about suicide because of stigma, but stigma only leads to silence. Silence about suicide DOES NOT contain the ripple effects.

Preventing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders among young people is one of the soundest investments a society could make. Benefits include higher productivity, lower treatment costs, less suffering and premature mortality and more cohesive families and of course happier, better adjusted, more successful young people. Given the evidence that these actions can be taken to achieve these benefits, the case for action is compelling.

Cost – benefit analysis and cost effectiveness analysis are two methods used to assess whether an intervention is desirable from an economic standpoint.

” Prevention, by definition, is undertaken to avoid harmful out comes. MEB ( mental, emotional and behavioral) disorders among young people account for considerable costs to healthcare, child welfare, education, juvenile justice, and criminal justice systems, as well as enormous additional costs in terms of the suffering of individuals, families and others affected.” ( NCBI)

“These health consequences represent an enormous burden during childhood and are also correlated with significantly increased risks to health and reduced productivity in adulthood. Mental disorders lead to lost productivity and functioning not 9nly for the children, but also for the parents and caregivers.” ( NCBI)

The stress and unpredictability of having a child with a serious MEB can interfere with parents work lives, or a disruptive child in a classroom can interfere with other students learning. There may also be significant costs to the work or educational productivity of siblings.

In closing it is important to note that the significant society benefits of preventing mental, emotional and behavioral problems among young people may warrant intervention even when there is no specific cost effectiveness data available, particularly if there is evidence that an effective intervention is available.


So what are we waiting for?




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