Medicine and health are surprisingly separate. In the introduction to his 1963 master work on medical economics, Kenneth Arrow acknowledged that “the subject is the medical-care industry, not health.” In the 50 years that followed, researchers, policymakers, and public health professionals generated valuable and varied insights into health, impacting both behaviors and environments while addressing social determinants and demographic trends. Yet medical care has followed an even steeper upward trajectory, growing rapidly in scientific precision, public esteem, and technical sophistication.
As a result, the economic gap between the two domains has widened. The U.S. health care system spends almost $3 trillion annually. Preventive screening and early intervention bridge medical care and health, as do nutrition, behavioral health, aging, and a few other fields. But the money is overwhelmingly in medical care, particularly rescue care for those with acute illnesses or serious (and typically preventable) complications of chronic disease.