The cost-effectiveness of public health interventions

J Public Health (Oxf). 2012 Mar;34(1):37-45. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdr075. Epub 2011 Sep 20.


Background: The need to make best use of limited resources in the English National Health Service is now greater than ever. This paper contributes to this endeavour by synthesizing data from cost-effectiveness evidence produced to support the development of public health guidance at the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). No comprehensive list of cost-effectiveness estimates for public health interventions has previously been published in England.

Methods: Cost-effectiveness estimates using English cost data were collected and analysed from 21 (of 26) economic analyses underpinning public health guidance published by NICE between 2006 and 2010.

Results: Two hundred base-case cost-effectiveness estimates were analysed, 15% were cost saving (i.e. the intervention was more effective and cheaper than comparator). Eighty-five per cent were cost-effective at a threshold of £20,000 per quality-adjusted life year and 89% at the higher threshold of £30,000. A further 5.5% were above £30,000 and 5.5% of the interventions were dominated (i.e. the intervention was more costly and less effective than comparator).

Conclusions: The majority of public health interventions assessed are highly cost-effective. The next challenge is to provide commissioners with a framework that allows information from economic analyses to be combined with other criteria that supports making better investment decisions at a local level.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • England
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Preventive Health Services / economics*
  • Preventive Health Services / methods
  • Preventive Health Services / standards
  • Public Health / economics*
  • Public Health / methods
  • Public Health / standards
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • State Medicine / economics*
  • State Medicine / standards