NEW YORK – It is hard to find anyone in health care who does not believe that spending $100 now on healthy behavior – exercise and proper nutrition, counseling for pre-diabetics, risk monitoring, and so on – could yield more than $200 in reduced costs and improved outcomes later. The numbers are fuzzy, of course, and there are plenty of methodological caveats, but there is little dispute about the desirability of such an approach.
And yet neither individuals nor communities seem to act on the basis of this knowledge. Individuals often lack willpower or access to healthy food or convenient exercise facilities, and are surrounded by poor examples that encourage instant gratification rather than effort and restraint. And, on a broader, institutional scale, the money spent and the money to be gained do not belong to the same pocket.