If the equivalent of $10 a person was put into programs to promote healthy behaviors and prevention, Utahns would save more than $89 million within five years, according to a national report on disease prevention.

The Trust for America's Health released its "Prevention for a Healthier America" report Thursday morning, including a state-by-state look at cost savings that could top $16 billion nationally through community-based efforts including smoking prevention, nutrition improvement and activity-friendly environments.

It translates to $3.70 for every dollar spent, Jeff Levi, executive director of the trust, told the Deseret News.

"I think the most important thing about this study is it is the first time we've been able to model how much the health-care system could save if we placed a greater emphasis on keeping people healthy through community-level prevention activities," he said.

Sidewalks are a prime example. It's hard to get people outside and walking more when communities are built strictly for automobile travel. And it's fine to tell people to make better food choices, but it doesn't mean much if they can't get to places that have fresh fruits and vegetables. Other examples Levi provided include efforts to keep school playgrounds open after hours so neighborhoods can utilize them and to move farmers markets closer to communities.

People need to make healthy choices, he said, but "communities have a responsibility to make those healthy choices easy choices."

Even small changes in health outcomes can lead to dramatic savings for health care.

Right now, most health money is reactive, spent on caring for the sick. The report says more money in prevention creates healthier people who are more productive and more competitive in a world market.

The United States lags some other nations in those efforts. England and France, for instance, have started a "systematic remaking of communities" to tackle obesity.

The full report is online at www.healthyamericans.org.


E-mail: lois@desnews.com