Conceptual framework for standard economic evaluation of physical activity programs in primary prevention

Prev Sci. 2011 Dec;12(4):435-51. doi: 10.1007/s11121-011-0235-4.


Economic evaluations of primary prevention physical activity programs have gained importance because of scarce resources in health-care-systems. A concept for economic evaluation should be based on the efficacy of physical activity, the standard methods of economic evaluation and the aims of public health. Previous publications have examined only parts of these components and have not developed a comprehensive conceptual framework; it is the objective of this article to develop such a framework. The derived method should aid decision makers and staff members of intervention programs in reviewing and conducting an economic evaluation. A literature search of articles was done using six electronic databases. Referenced works for standard methods and more comprehensive approaches for evaluation of preventive programs were studied. The newly developed conceptual framework for economic evaluation includes: (1) the type of physical activity program; (2) features of a selected study population; (3) the outcome dimension comprising exercise efficacy, reach, recruitment, response rate, maintenance, compliance and adverse health effects plus the social impact; and (4) the cost dimension consisting of program development costs, program implementation costs including the implementation, recruitment, program, participants' time costs and savings resulting from the health effects of the intervention. Cost-effectiveness also depends on the methodology, such as the chosen perspective, data collection, valuation methods and discounting. If an intervention is not considered cost-effective, it is necessary to check each dimension to find possible failures in order to learn for future interventions. A more detailed economic evaluation is of utmost importance for improved comparability and transferability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Costs and Cost Analysis*
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Primary Prevention*
  • Program Evaluation / economics*