National Public Health Week highlights big returns on investment

2 min read

National Public Health Week (NPHW), being celebrated during the first week of April, focuses on what U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin calls the “extraordinary” returns that come from investments in public health initiatives.

In a video marking the beginning of NPHW—organized by the American Public Health Association to raise awareness about public health—Benjamin cited examples such as routine childhood vaccinations and the widespread use of child safety seats, both of which save thousands of lives and thousands of dollars in medical costs every year.

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. HSPH’s John McDonough, professor of the practice of public health and director of the Center for Public Health Leadership, wrote in his “Health Stew” blog on about 10 great public health achievements in the 20th century, compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HSPH has played a prominent role in many of those advances—which have all saved lives and dollars—through research, prevention initiatives, and education.

For example, HSPH researchers have fought AIDS through the HSPH AIDS Initiative and malaria through the Harvard Malaria Initiative; worked to reduce the harm from other infectious diseases such tuberculosis; polio, and more; highlighted the health hazards of tobacco; and touted the importance of good nutrition for health. And, as the obesity epidemic has led to ever-greater rates of chronic disease—diabetes, heart disease, and stroke—HSPH experts have examined the nature of the problem and the best ways to prevent it.