A number of UK studies have concluded that public health is often considered a politically soft target for budget cuts in high-income countries.
To investigate the potential impact of these disinvestments on public health, a team of researchers conducted a systematic review of public health programmes evaluated on databases such as Medline, Pubmed and Cochrane, to examine the return on investment and cost–benefit ratio. The researchers focused on high-income countries with universal healthcare, including the UK, United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
From 2,957 titles, the researchers selected 52 relevant titles, published over 40 years covering 29 programmes. They found that the average return on investment was 14.3 for every unit cost spent on it while the average cost-benefit ratio was 8.3.
Reporting in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health
, the researchers calculated that the opportunity cost of the recent £200m cuts to public health funding in England is likely to be eightfold higher, in the region of £1.6bn.