Introduction: The generation of robust evidence has been emphasised as a priority for global health. Evidence generation spans a wide range of activities including clinical trials, surveillance programmes and health system performance measurement. As resources for healthcare and research are limited, the desirability of research expenditure should be assessed on the same basis as other healthcare resources, that is, the health gains from research must be expected to exceed the health opportunity costs imposed as funds are diverted to research rather than service provision.
Methods: We developed a transmission and costing model to examine the impact of generating additional evidence to reduce uncertainties on the evolution of a generalised HIV epidemic in Zambia.
Results: We demonstrate three important points. First, we can quantify the value of additional evidence in terms of the health gain it is expected to generate. Second, we can quantify the health opportunity cost imposed by research expenditure. Third, the value of evidence generation depends on the budgetary policies in place for managing HIV resources under uncertainty. Generating evidence to reduce uncertainty is particularly valuable when decision makers are required to strictly adhere to expenditure plans and when transfers of funds across geographies/programmes are restricted.
Conclusion: Better evidence can lead to health improvements in the same way as direct delivery of healthcare. Quantitative appraisals of evidence generation activities are important and should reflect the impact of improved evidence on population health, evidence generation costs and budgetary policies in place.
Bibliographical note© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2018.
- Health economics; Health policy; Health services research; AIDS; HIV.