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Progress on Prevention Lags, Report Says

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The U.S. healthcare system has some remarkable treatment success stories but efforts to prevent illnesses caused by smoking and other unhealthy behaviors has stalled, according to the annual America's Health Rankings report.

The report said smoking, poor dietary habits and lack of exercise are costing the U.S. billions of dollars in healthcare costs. Despite a 20-year public-health battle against smoking, one in five Americans still smoke regularly, the report noted.

“Over the past 20 years, our national health care system has helped extend the length of life, but not the quality of life,” said Reed Tuckson, M.D., executive vice president and chief of medical affairs at UnitedHealth Group, who added, “Making progress against smoking and obesity is a critical step to successfully tackling the health reform our nation wants to achieve.”

“As a nation, we are fighting the wrong health care battle. Although there is a wealth of evidence supporting the value of prevention as a way to save lives and save money, the majority of every health care dollar goes towards treating illness,” said Georges C. Benjamin, M.D., executive director of the American Public Health Association. “Essentially, health reform should include a strong focus on prevention. Behaviors, such as smoking and obesity, are limiting our nation's ability to make progress and costing billions in unnecessary, preventable health care costs.”

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