EBRI Issue Brief

Health Promotion: Its Role in Health Care

Nov 1, 1991 18  pages


  • Health promotion stresses early detection of health risks, utilization of resources for appropriate and timely care, and monitoring of health care costs. As one part of a total health plan strategy, employee assistance programs range from the provision of information to efforts to encourage health-related behavior change.
  • Medical screening can be an effective technique to detect disease in the earliest stages; however, its use in insurance underwriting is controversial.
  • Health promotion and disease prevention's place on the public policy agenda was defined for the coming decade with the publication of a national strategy for improving the nation's health, emphasizing health promotion, health protection, and disease prevention.
  • The U.S. Surgeon General describes smoking as the largest single preventable cause of death and disability for the U.S. population. Annual costs to the health care system of smoking-related illnesses exceed $65 billion and are increasing at the rate of 22 percent to 25 percent per year.
  • The Office of Technology Assessment estimates that early and frequent prenatal care can save the U.S. health care system between $14,000 and $30,000 in newborn, first year, and long-term health care costs. The lifetime custodial cost of caring for a low birth-weight baby can reach $500,000.
  • A recent study showed that persons who did not exercise had 114 percent higher nonmaternity medical claims costs, used 30 percent more hospital days, and were 41 percent more likely to have annual claims of more than $5,000 than those who exercised the equivalent of climbing 15 flights of stairs or walking 1.5 miles four or more times a week.