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Although spending rates on health care and social services vary substantially across the states, little is known about the possible association between variation in state-level health outcomes and the allocation of state spending between health care and social services. To estimate that association, we used state-level repeated measures multivariable modeling for the period 2000–09, with region and time fixed effects adjusted for total spending and state demographic and economic characteristics and with one- and two-year lags. We found that states with a higher ratio of social to health spending (calculated as the sum of social service spending and public health spending divided by the sum of Medicare spending and Medicaid spending) had significantly better subsequent health outcomes for the following seven measures: adult obesity; asthma; mentally unhealthy days; days with activity limitations; and mortality rates for lung cancer, acute myocardial infarction, and type 2 diabetes. Our study suggests that broadening the debate beyond what should be spent on health care to include what should be invested in health—not only in health care but also in social services and public health—is warranted.

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