Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Healthy Americans = Less Costly Americans

While much of the debate surrounding the new healthcare bill speaks to changes in insurance coverage for uninsured and underinsured Americans - a more noteworthy benefit of the overhaul is the (much overdue) focus on prevention. Under the new law, insurance companies will be required to provide preventive services - such as immunizations and check-ups - as part of the patient's insurance coverage. Patients will not be required to pay additional out-of-pocket charges for these services.
“This is transformative,” says Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, a nonprofit organization for large employers. “We’re moving from an insurance model that was based on treating illness and injury, to a model that’s focused on improving an individual’s health and identifying risk factors.” [link]
Public Health professionals have long known that focusing on preventing illness is much more cost-effective than treating illness. For example - it's much more cost-effective to encourage hand hygiene in healthcare workers than it is to treat a healthcare-associated infection. It's promising that this is also the direction healthcare reform is heading.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Farmer Suicides in Punjab Continue

A recent article in the Financial Times discusses how the suicide rate among small farmers in Punjab is much higher than official statistics.
The north-western state, the main breadbasket of Asia's third-largest economy, had appeared immune to the wave of suicides by indebted farmers that has swept drier parts of India. Yet research shows that more than 2,000 farmers in Punjab kill themselves each year to escape the shame of chronic debts related to agricultural inputs, such as seed and pesticide, and falling incomes.
Official statistics say that 132 farmers in the Punjab killed themselves in the past five years. Most suspected suicides are attributed to natural causes or alcohol or drug abuse. Inderjit Singh Jaijee, a Chandigarh-based human-rights activist and former state legislator, states that up to 40,000 farmers have taken their lives in the past 20 years. Many of their families are left destitute, receiving no state support.

Punjab benefitted greatly in the Green Revolution, a movement in the 1960s to modernize agriculture with more utilization of fertilizer and pesticides. According to the FT article, "Policymakers stress the need to boost the agricultural economy, which supports the bulk of India's 1.2bn people."