Economic evaluation of communicable disease interventions in developing countries: a critical review of the published literature

Health Econ. 2000 Dec;9(8):681-98. doi: 10.1002/1099-1050(200012)9:8<681::aid-hec545>;2-x.


Limited health care budgets have emphasized the need for providers to use resources efficiently. Accordingly, there has been a rapid increase in the number of economic evaluations of communicable disease health programmes in developing countries, as there is a need to implement evidence-based policy decisions. However, given the prohibitive cost of many economic evaluations in low-income countries, interest has also been generated in pooling data and results of previously published studies. Yet, our review demonstrated that very few published economic evaluations have been performed during 1984-1997 (n=107). Certain diseases and geographical areas have also been neglected. Of those studies published, appropriate analytic techniques have been inconsistently applied. In particular, there are four immediate concerns: the narrow perspective taken-dominance of the health care provider viewpoint and reliance on intermediate outcomes measures; bias-some costs were excluded from estimates; the lack of transparency-sources of data not identified; and the absence of a critical examination of findings-many papers failed to perform a sensitivity analysis. The usefulness of previously published economic evaluations to help make resource allocation choices on an individual basis and, therefore, for the purpose of international comparisons, pooling or meta-analysis, has to be questioned in light of the results from this study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bias
  • Communicable Disease Control / economics*
  • Communicable Disease Control / methods
  • Communicable Disease Control / standards
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Developing Countries / economics*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Health Care Rationing
  • Health Policy
  • Health Services Research / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / organization & administration
  • Program Evaluation / economics
  • Program Evaluation / methods*
  • Research Design / standards
  • Sensitivity and Specificity