Researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine and Vitality Group examined the $2.7 trillion spent in the United States on health care in 2016 and determined that 27% of the spending was attributable to five modifiable risk factors. Obesity accounted for the largest share of the expenditure ($238.5 billion), followed by high blood pressure ($180 billion), high fasting plasma glucose ($172 billion), dietary risks ($143 billion) and tobacco smoke ($130 billion). Per person, health spending on these five risk factors increased with age, with the largest portion of expenditures (44%) attributable to people 65 or older.

Why it Matters: With avoidable diseases driving such a large portion of our spending, we must focus on public health efforts as well as traditional clinical interventions to prevent and control these common, and expensive, health conditions. Additionally, initiatives focused on the social determinants of health may help reign in spending while positively influencing health outcomes. How can decision-makers shape policies that empower the creation and maintenance of healthy-minded communities? Francois Millard, chief actuarial officer at Vitality, emphasized the need for health to “be part of all policy discussions, not just those related to sickness.”