The potential to forgo social welfare gains through overrelianceon cost effectiveness/cost utility analyses in the evidence base for public health

J Environ Public Health. 2009;2009:107927. doi: 10.1155/2009/107927. Epub 2009 Dec 2.


Economic evaluations of clinical treatments most commonly take the form of cost effectiveness or cost utility analyses. This is appropriate since the main-sometimes the only-benefit of such interventions is increased health. The majority of economic evaluations in public health, however, have also been assessed using these techniques when arguably cost benefit analyses would in many cases have been more appropriate, given its ability to take account of nonhealth benefits as well. An examination of the nonhealth benefits from a sample of studies featured in a recent review of economic evaluations in public health illustrates how overfocusing on cost effectiveness/cost utility analyses may lead to forgoing potential social welfare gains from programmes in public health. Prior to evaluation, programmes should be considered in terms of the potential importance of nonhealth benefits and where these are considerable would be better evaluated by more inclusive economic evaluation techniques.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / economics*
  • Health Services Research / methods*
  • Humans
  • Public Health / economics*
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Social Welfare / economics*
  • United Kingdom