Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Very Brief Blog: New Article on Preventive Care

See a new deep-dive article, as well as a summary blog, on preventive care and how we should think about it.

The authors are impressive - the article author, Joseph Newhouse, is a senior professor at Harvard.  The blog author, Jason Shafrin, is a well-known health economics expert in his own right.  Homepage for the blog is here.

  • Overview of the Newhouse article, by Shafrin - at Healthcare Economist - here.
  • Original article by Newhouse - at Journal of Economic Perspectives - here.  

Newhouse, Joseph P. 2021. 

"An Ounce of Prevention." 

Journal of Economic Perspectives, 35 (2): 101-18.


I look at prevention through an economic lens and make three main points. First, those advocating preventive measures are often asked how much money a given measure saves. This question is misguided. Rather, preventive measures can be thought of as insurance, with a certain cost in the present that may or may not pay off in the future. In fact, although most medical preventive measures improve expected health, they do not save money. Various lifestyle and early childhood interventions, however, may both save money and improve health. Second, preventive measures, including medical and lifestyle measures, are heterogeneous in their value, both across measures and within measure, across individuals. As a result, generalizations in everyday discourse about the value of prevention can be overly broad. Third, health insurance coverage for medical preventive measures should generally be more extensive than coverage for the treatment of a medical condition, though full coverage of preventive services is not necessarily optimal.


A few other recent articles on prevention that might be of interest.

Liran et al. 2020 ask if selection affects screening outcome studies, Amer Econ Rev, here.

Testy round of articles on mammograms starting with article and op ed (here, here) in JAMA Intern Med 3/2021, and rebuttal in radiology trade journal here.

Article by Ofman of GRAIL on value of multi-cancer screening tests, AJMC, 2021, here.