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Estimating cost-effectiveness in public health: a summary of modelling and valuation methods

Abstract

It is acknowledged that economic evaluation methods as they have been developed for Health Technology Assessment do not capture all the costs and benefits relevant to the assessment of public health interventions. This paper reviews methods that could be employed to measure and value the broader set of benefits generated by public health interventions. It is proposed that two key developments are required if this vision is to be achieved. First, there is a trend to modelling approaches that better capture the effects of public health interventions. This trend needs to continue, and economists need to consider a broader range of modelling techniques than are currently employed to assess public health interventions. The selection and implementation of alternative modelling techniques should be facilitated by the production of better data on the behavioural outcomes generated by public health interventions. Second, economists are currently exploring a number of valuation paradigms that hold the promise of more appropriate valuation of public health interventions outcomes. These include the capabilities approach and the subjective well-being approach, both of which offer the possibility of broader measures of value than the approaches currently employed by health economists. These developments should not, however, be made by economists alone. These questions, in particular what method should be used to value public health outcomes, require social value judgements that are beyond the capacity of economists. This choice will require consultation with policy makers, and perhaps even the general public. Such collaboration would have the benefit of ensuring that the methods developed are useful for decision makers.