Striving for a societal perspective: a framework for economic evaluations when costs and effects fall on multiple sectors and decision-makers

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In most societies, resources are distributed by individuals acting in markets and by governments through some form of collective decision-making process. Economic evaluation offers a set of tools to inform collective decisions by examining the resource requirements and outcomes of alternative policies. The ‘societal perspective’ has been advocated, but less consideration has been given to what this should include and its practical implementation. This paper presents a framework for economic evaluation of policies with costs and outcomes falling on different sectors (e.g. health, criminal justice, education) and involving different decision makers. It extends the ‘impact inventory’ developed by the Second Panel on Cost-Effectiveness in Health and Medicine by considering all affected individuals and reflecting how outcomes attributed to an intervention can be compared with outcomes forgone as a result of resources not being available for other purposes. The framework sets out the series of assessments to be made, distinguishing points at which value judgements feed into the evaluation, and the implications of alternative judgements. These assessments reflect the institutional arrangements of public bodies, for example, their funding, the outcomes they consider important and their relative valuations of these outcomes. By avoiding the use of an abstract ‘societal perspective’, the contribution of the framework is to inform multiple decision makers with different objectives and provide practical guidance on overall societal impact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages1
JournalApplied Health Economics and Health Policy
Early online date16 May 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 May 2019

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