Serving Society

Societal Benefits of Improved Health

NIH-supported research contributes to health benefits, which in turn result in societal and economic benefits.

Health and Economy

Research-related gains in average life expectancy, including those supported by NIH, have an estimated economic impact of approximately $38 trillion per year of extended life.

Image credit: Wesley Gilbertson, NLM

  • Cancer death rates have been dropping by more than 1.5% annually for the past 15 years.  
  • Each 1% reduction in cancer deaths has a present value of nearly $500 billion to current and future generations of Americans.

Drug Use Disorder Treatment

Implementing evidence-based interventions for addiction can have a benefit of more than $58 for every $1 spent, thanks in part to NIH-supported initiatives that bridge the gap between the science of substance use disorder treatment and practice in real world settings.

Image credit: National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH

  • The NIH National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network has produced dramatic advances in understanding drug use and addiction, leading to the development of an array of new treatments and therapies to help patients with substance use disorders.
  • Studies show that every $1 spent on substance use disorder treatment saves $4 in health care costs and $7 in criminal justice costs.

Drug Use Disorder Prevention

Every $1 spent preventing drug use in adolescents results in an economic benefit of more than $100, and it can produce benefits for communities that outweigh monetary costs, according to NIH research.

Image credit: Daniel Soñé Photography, NCATS

  • NIH-funded research produced key insights into the importance of adolescence as a period of increased vulnerability to the negative consequences of drug use, and a key period for intervention and prevention efforts that target risk and protective factors at the individual, family, and community levels.
  • If implemented nationwide, it is estimated that school-based substance use prevention programs could save $18 per $1 invested, and substance use initiation would decline for 1.5 million youth and be delayed for 2 years on average.

Childhood Interventions

Many childhood health interventions can be attributed to NIH-supported research, and these interventions have saved lives and reduced the costly burden of illness. For example, in the U.S., routine vaccinations of children born in 2009 will reduce direct health care costs by at least $13.5 billion over their lifetimes.

Image credit: National Eye Institute, NIH

  • CDC estimates that for children born in 2009, childhood vaccinations will reduce direct health care costs by $13.5 billion and save $68.8 billion in indirect costs over their lifetimes.
  • Cochlear implants—developed in part from NIH-supported research—when implanted early, can save more than $30,000 in costs per child.
  • NIH supported the development of the haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) vaccine, and this vaccine is estimated to save more than $1.8 billion in direct treatment costs for children born in 2009 alone.

Lead Restrictions

NIH-supported research on the effects of lead on child development and behavior was key to establishing bans on lead in paint and in gasoline for vehicles. The economic benefit of reducing lead levels among children by preventing lead exposure is estimated at $213 billion per year.

Image credit: Shutterstock

  • Research shows that lead exposure early in life irreversibly disrupts brain development, and blood lead levels are associated with adverse neurological effects in children.
  • Over the past 45 years, exposure to lead has declined dramatically in the U.S. 
  • This sustained decline is measured by blood and environmental lead levels and achieved through control of lead sources, emission reductions, federal regulations, and applied public health efforts.

Toxic Waste Cleanup

By implementing innovative clean-up strategies for hazardous waste sites, NIH-funded research has contributed to more than $100 million in savings for toxic waste clean-up costs.

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

  • NIH-funded multi-disciplinary research projects in environmental health have advanced knowledge and led to additional clinical, public health, policy, and economic benefits.
  • A recent assessment found that five technologies developed by NIH-funded research have saved over $100 million in remediation costs.

Eye Diseases and Treatments

NIH-supported research on drug development for eye diseases has saved $28.5 billion in health care costs over 10 years and reduced wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD)-related legal blindness by 50%.

Image credit: Terese Winslow, NCI

  • In wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels appear in the eye, leading to vision loss. 
  • Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a protein responsible for normal blood vessel formation, and it can cause abnormal blood vessels to develop in the eye as a part of disease. 
  • NIH supported the development of drugs that reduce VEGF activity, and these drugs are now standard therapies for vascular diseases of the retina, such as diabetic retinopathy and wet AMD.


Health and Economy

  1. Murphy, KM et al. Uof Chicago Press 2006; vol. 114(5)871-904.  
  2. Siegel, RL, et al. 2015, Cancer statistics 2017;67: 7-30
  3. Scott, AJ, et al. Nat Aging 2021;1, 616–623.

Drug Use Disorder Treatment

  1. Center for Clinical Trials Network:
  2. Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health:,costs.6%20Yet%2C%20effective%20prevention%20interventions%20are%20highly%20underused
  3. Clinical Trials Network:,toward%20new%20treatment%20options%20in%20community-level%20clinical%20practice

Drug Use Disorder Prevention

  1. Jordan CJ, et al. Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2017;25:29-44. PMID: 27840157.
  2. National Institutes of Health. Preventing Drug Use among Children and Adolescents: A Research-Based Guide for Parents, Educators, and Community Leaders, Second Edition. 2011.
  3. Griffin KW, et al. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2010;19(3):505-26. PMID: 20682218.
  4. Miller TR, et al. Substance Abuse Prevention Dollars and Cents: A Cost-Benefit Analysis. 2009.
  5. Washington State Institute for Public Policy. Benefits and costs of prevention and early intervention programs for youth. 2004.

Childhood Interventions

  1. Semenov YR, et al. Ear Hear. 2013;34(4):402-12. PMID: 23558665.
  2. Zhou F, et al. Pediatrics. 2014;133(4):577-85. PMID: 24590750.

Lead Restrictions

  1. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Lead Information:
  2. Ten great public health achievements—United States, 2001-2010:
  3. Dignam T, et al. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2019;25 Suppl 1, Lead Poisoning Prevention. PMID: 30507765.
  4. Grosse SD, et al. Environ Health Perspect. 2002;110(6):563-9. PMID: 12055046.

Toxic Waste Cleanup

  1. Suk WA, et al. Rev Environ Health. 2020;35(2):85-109. PMID: 32543458.

Eye Diseases and Treatments

  1. Article: NIH study finds Avastin and Lucentis are equally effective in treating age-related macular degeneration:
  2. Bloch SB, et al. Am J Ophthalmol. 2012;153(2):209-213.e2. PMID: 22264944.
  3. Brown GC, et al. Am J Ophthalmol. 2021;223:405-429. PMID: 32681907.

This page last reviewed on March 1, 2023