Cost-effectiveness of Prevention Programs

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by Carolina on June 14, 2010

In some situations as public health professionals we have the need of analyzing the cost-effectiveness of one or several prevention programs.  We basically need to compare the relative costs and outcomes (effects) of two or more courses of action, and based on that economic analysis choose the options that provide the greatest outcome for the least cost.

In order to start with that analysis we should have first a good understanding and knowledge of the program prevention efforts and program operations. We should start gathering data about the program, defining indicators, and for planning activities we should consider the cost effectiveness of the program to set priorities.

Through the economic evaluation and analysis of the programs, and the use of cost-effective resource allocations we can accomplish goals in prevention. This economic evaluation will have potential applications on:

  • Resource and policy advocacy
  • Targeting prevention efforts
  • Intervention evaluation
  • Prioritization
  • Intervention comparisons
  • Resource allocation

For example, economic analyses of the cost of providing a particular prevention services to at risk populations, and the potential impact of these services, can assist public health decision makers in determining whether that particular prevention funding should be increased or reduced.

Based on the cost-effectiveness of the program we can demonstrate the need for increased prevention funding or better targeting of existing economic resources, and estimate cost of prevention programs to eliminate a particular disease. Cost-effectiveness analysis can also be used to quantitatively address the targeting issue and to suggest qualitative guidelines for maximizing investment on a particular prevention plan.

Cost-effectiveness analysis is typically expressed in terms of a ratio where the denominator is a gain in health from a measure (years of life, premature births averted, sight-years gained) and the numerator is the cost associated with the health gain. The most commonly used outcome measure is quality-adjusted life years (QALY).

Using this essential evaluation tool will help us to set health priorities, to make tough decisions about how best to invest funds for public health, and to accomplish prevention goals.

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