Early interventions save money later in life

By Ann Griswold • Published: September 8th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Parents of young children often feel the crunch when it comes to saving time and money. But a new study shows that early-life interventions can save society upwards of sixty-five billion dollars in health costs if parents act before their child’s fifth birthday.

Many lifelong health problems can be traced back to early childhood. Children younger than age five are especially susceptible to injury, secondhand tobacco smoke, mental illness and obesity. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health say as many as half of all children in the United States are exposed to these health problems, yet relatively few parents take steps to intervene. Ignoring these problems comes at a price… about fifty-thousand dollars over the lifetime of a single child, to be exact.

The researchers came up with these numbers after sifting through studies of early childhood interventions published in several online databases. They focused on the effects of accidental injury, secondhand tobacco smoke, mental illness and obesity. Early-childhood interventions were most effective at preventing the long-term health problems associated with secondhand smoke and physical injury. The researchers estimated that reducing secondhand smoke exposure in young children would save society more than five-hundred-million dollars. Targeting obesity would also save money in the long run, but experts say effective kid-friendly interventions are still too few and far between.

So when it comes to pinching time and pennies, don’t just think about the short-term. Remember: A stitch in time saves nine!