Programme costs in the economic evaluation of health interventions

Cost Eff Resour Alloc. 2003 Feb 26;1(1):1. doi: 10.1186/1478-7547-1-1.


Estimating the costs of health interventions is important to policy-makers for a number of reasons including the fact that the results can be used as a component in the assessment and improvement of their health system performance. Costs can, for example, be used to assess if scarce resources are being used efficiently or whether there is scope to reallocate them in a way that would lead to improvements in population health. As part of its WHO-CHOICE project, WHO has been developing a database on the overall costs of health interventions in different parts of the world as an input to discussions about priority setting.Programme costs, defined as costs incurred at the administrative levels outside the point of delivery of health care to beneficiaries, may comprise an important component of total costs. Cost-effectiveness analysis has sometimes omitted them if the main focus has been on personal curative interventions or on the costs of making small changes within the existing administrative set-up. However, this is not appropriate for non-personal interventions where programme costs are likely to comprise a substantial proportion of total costs, or for sectoral analysis where questions of how best to reallocate all existing health resources, including administrative resources, are being considered.This paper presents a first effort to systematically estimate programme costs for many health interventions in different regions of the world. The approach includes the quantification of resource inputs, choice of resource prices, and accounts for different levels of population coverage. By using an ingredients approach, and making tools available on the World Wide Web, analysts can adapt the programme costs reported here to their local settings. We report results for a selected number of health interventions and show that programme costs vary considerably across interventions and across regions, and that they can contribute substantially to the overall costs of interventions.