Economic evaluation of interventions to address undernutrition: a systematic review

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Strategies to address undernutrition in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) include various interventions implemented through different sectors of the economy. Our aim is to provide an overview of published economic evaluations of such interventions and to compare and contrast evaluations of interventions in different areas. We reviewed economic evaluations of nutrition interventions in LMICs published since 2015 and/or included in the Tufts Global registry or Disease Control Priorities 3rd edition. We categorized the studies by intervention type (preventive; therapeutic; fortification; delivery platforms), nutritional deficiency addressed and characteristics of the economic evaluation (e.g. type of model, costs and outcomes included). Of the 62 economic evaluations identified, 56 (90%) were cost-effectiveness analyses. Twenty-two (36%) evaluations investigated fortification and 23 (37%) preventive interventions. Forty-three percent of the evaluations of preventive interventions did not include a model, whereas most of fortification strategies used the same reference model. We identified different trends in cost categories and inclusion of health and non-health outcomes across evaluations in the four different topic areas. To illustrate the implications of such trends for decision-making, we compared a set of studies evaluating alternative strategies to combat zinc deficiency. We showed that the use of 'off-the-shelf' models and tools can potentially conceal what outcomes and costs and value judgements are used. Comparing interventions across different areas is fundamental to assist decision-makers in developing their nutrition strategy. Systematic differences in the economic evaluations of interventions delivered within and outside the health sector can undermine the ability to prioritize alternative nutrition strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberczaa149
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Policy and Planning
Early online date6 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press in association with The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

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