Accounting for Country- and Time-Specific Values in the Economic Evaluation of Health-Related Projects Relevant to low- and Middle-Income Countries

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Economic evaluation of health-related projects requires principles and methods to address the various trade-offs that need to be made between costs and benefits, across sectors and social objectives, and over time. Existing guidelines for economic evaluation in low- and middle-income countries embed implicit assumptions about expected changes in the marginal cost per unit of health produced by the healthcare sector, the consumption value of health and the appropriate discount rates for health and consumption. Separating these evaluation parameters out requires estimates for each country over time, which have hitherto been unavailable. We present a conceptual economic evaluation framework that aims to clarify the distinct roles of these different evaluation parameters in evaluating a health-related project. Estimates for each are obtained for each country, and in each time period, based on available empirical evidence. Where existing estimates are not available, for future values of the marginal cost per unit of health produced by the healthcare sector, new estimates are obtained following a practical method for obtaining projected values. The framework is applied to a simple, hypothetical, illustrative example and the results from our preferred approach are compared against those obtained from other approaches informed by the assumptions implicit within existing guidelines. This exposes the consequences of applying such assumptions, which are not supported by available evidence, in terms of potentially sub-optimal decisions. In general, we find that applying existing guidelines as done in conventional practice likely underestimates the value of health-related projects on account of not allowing for expected growth in the marginal cost per unit of health produced by the healthcare sector.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-54
JournalHealth Policy and Planning
Issue number1
Early online date19 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press in association with The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

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