Economic evaluation of public health interventions

Susan Griffin*, Nigel Rice, Mark Sculpher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Economic evaluation is increasingly used to provide a formal, explicit and transparent framework for informing decisions about allocating public funds in the health care sector. By utilizing economic evaluation in the field of public health, it is possible to address questions about the efficiency of allocating resources to fund interventions aimed at improving public health. Economic evaluation of medical interventions and programmes within the health care sector typically utilizes a framework that aims to maximize health outcomes subject to the health sector budget constraint (an 'extra welfarist' perspective). This chapter discusses whether this extra welfarist normative framework can be extended to the evaluation of public health interventions, which may have objectives other than health maximization, and may operate across multiple sectors and budget constraints. The extensions to the framework that would enable intersectoral comparisons and a consideration of equity are considered, as well as frameworks used in other areas of policy evaluation (e.g. cost-benefit analysis based on conventional 'welfarist' normative principles). The chapter considers how the current elements of economic evaluation - such as statistical analysis of individual patient data, systematic review, evidence synthesis, and decision-analytic modelling - can be applied to evaluate public health interventions with the view to informing policy. Methods for valuing health outcomes are considered in order to determine the need to move beyond the quality adjusted life year (QALY), and to reflect concerns about equity, and the determinants of health and health inequalities. Methods for evaluating the opportunity costs of allocating resources from multiple sectors to a particular intervention are examined, with a view to calculating the net benefits of alternative interventions. The chapter concludes by considering whether methodological standards for the economic evaluation of public health interventions can be established.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEvidence-Based Public Health
Subtitle of host publicationEffectiveness and Efficiency
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191722554
ISBN (Print)9780199563623
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2010


  • Economic evaluation
  • Extra welfarist framework
  • Health policy
  • Public health interventions

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