Background: Acceptance of basic surgical care as an essential element of any properly functioning health system is growing. To justify investment in surgical interventions, donors require estimates of the economic benefit of treating surgical disease. The present study aimed to establish a methodology for valuing the potential economic benefit of surgical intervention using cleft lip and palate (CLP) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) as a model.
Methods: Economic modeling of cleft lip and cleft palate (CLP) in SSA was performed with retrospective demographic and economic data from 2008. The total number of Disability-Adjusted Life-Years (DALYs) secondary to CLP in 2008 was calculated from accepted clefting incidence rates and disability weights taken from the Global Burden of Disease Project. DALYs were then converted to monetary terms ($US), using both a human capital approach and Value of a Statistical Life (VSL) approach.
Results: With the human capital approach, the potential economic benefit if all incident cases of CLP in SSA in 2008 were repaired at birth ranged from $252 million to $441 million. With VSL, the potential economic benefit of the same CLP repair would range from $5.4 billion to $9.7 billion.
Conclusions: Cleft lip and cleft palate can have a substantial impact on the economic health of countries in the developing world. Further studies should be directed at quantifying the economic benefit of surgical interventions and quantifying their costs with an economically sound approach.