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Web-Based Tool Predicts Health Impacts

August 22, 2014
by Rajiv Leventhal
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HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research, along with Partnership for Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, have launched a web-based tool that predicts the health and economic impact of evidence-based public health interventions and policies at the county level.

The tool, called Community Health Advisor, enables public health officials, employers, community leaders, policymakers and others to more accurately determine which public health policies and programs will have the greatest impact on health, mortality and medical costs on a county, state or national level.
“This tool is the first to provide estimates of future health outcomes and medical costs from public health interventions for every county in the country,” George Isham, M.D., senior advisor, HealthPartners, and member of the National Commission on Prevention Priorities, said in a statement. “It helps lawmakers, community leaders, employers and others make informed decisions about where to make public health investments.”
Any user can select among several tobacco—or physical activity—related interventions, choose what geographic area to apply, and calculate how people’s health and lifestyle choices would be affected by a particular policy change. The tool can project the benefits policy changes for up to 30 years.
For example, the tool projects that raising the per-pack cigarette tax by $1.20 in Los Angeles County would have the following benefits in one decade: reduce smoking prevalence by .71 percent; save nearly $200 million in medical care costs; and prevent about 400 smoking-attributable deaths.
This tool also calculates how an intervention will affect a community over 30 years. Estimates include:
  • The proportion of residents who will start smoking or quit
  • The change in obesity and overweight
  • Trends in illness or disease, including cancers, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and diabetes
  • How many more years people are likely to live and whether they will have full health
  • The cost of medical care from illnesses related to smoking and obesity
Community Health Advisor uses data such as rates of smoking and obesity applied to a sample of 13 million lives that represent the U.S. population. Demographic and health data are from sources such as the U.S. Census and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
Community Health Advisor is powered by ModelHealth, a set of health economics models built over 15 years by researchers at the HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research. The models address obesity, tobacco use, cardiovascular disease and many others.

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