Investing in Prevention Saves Lives and Money

Public health protects every Nevadan, every single day, in countless ways; and makes our world a better place. Many of these ways go unnoticed, in fact, public health may have saved your life today.

But it’s not always that clear-cut. Where you live, your income, education, race, transportation options, safe places to exercise and play, healthy food sources, and access to quality healthcare can have a profound impact on your health, and mean as much as a 15-year difference in your life expectancy. Studies show your ZIP code is a greater predictor of health than your genetic code.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) took an important step toward addressing these health equity issues by creating the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF). By law, the fund must be used “to provide for expanded and sustained national investment in prevention and public health programs to improve health and help restrain the rate of growth in private and public health care costs.” In short, it was designed to shift our focus from treating the sick, to keeping people healthy.

The fund — a historic investment in prevention — has provided more than $7 billion since 2010 in resources to state and local agencies, businesses, schools, professional health associations, tribal organizations, community nonprofits, and faith-based groups. This includes support for initiatives that respond to infectious disease threats, detect cancer through screenings, prevent lead poisoning, fight obesity, and reduce tobacco use.

According to the Trust for America’s Health, Nevada has received over $31 million since the fund’s inception, and a substantial portion protects the health of our communities by ensuring increased access to vaccines. Each year in the United States, following the routine immunization schedule reduces direct health care costs by $9.9 billion and indirect costs by $33.4 billion. Investing in vaccines doesn’t just save lives, it saves money too. The current national debate over the repeal of the ACA and the elimination of the PPHF affects the future of these and other prevention programs, including the almost 100 Nevada jobs directly supported by the PPHF.

Nevada continues to rank at the bottom for public health spending – currently $4.10 per capita. In comparison, our neighbor to the northeast, Idaho spends $94.70 per capita. Consequently, our scarce immunization and public health resources require collaboration across all sectors of our community. At Immunize Nevada, we build partnerships, secure robust resources, and foster collaboration between community stakeholders to help deliver our mission. Public health professionals, nonprofit organizations, large healthcare systems, government, businesses, and individuals must work together and collectively use their expertise, capital, and resources to improve the health of our workforce, families, and community.

Nevada’s childhood and adolescent immunization rates have recorded double-digit increases since 2010, and during that same period, the number of uninsured children and adults has substantially declined. There’s a clear connection between having health insurance and getting vaccinated, and we cannot afford to lose this positive momentum. Now is the time to increase support for Nevada’s immunization advocates, programs, and infrastructure as we work diligently to carry out one of the most important jobs in our community: keeping people healthy, happy, and productive. We’re all in this together, so let’s keep collaborating. For our health and for the health of Nevada.

To find out about how you, your business or organization can get involved with Immunize Nevada’s mission, visit us at immunizenevada.org, follow us on social media or contact us at 775-624-7117. You can also donate through March 23 as part of Nevada's Big Give, our state's annual 24 hours of online giving event.

Heidi Parker, MA

As executive director of Immunize Nevada, Heidi Parker, MA leads and engages a diverse coalition of staff, volunteers, member organizations and funders so they are passionate about vaccines and access to preventive health care across Nevada’s rural, urban and frontier communities. Bringing over two decades of experience in nonprofit program management, fundraising and marketing, she has dedicated her career to being able to affect her community in a positive way, whether working with Head Start families, victims of violence, college students or Nevadans needing immunizations.