Importance: Describing the economic impact of childhood food allergy in the United States is important to guide public health policies.
Objective: To determine the economic impact of childhood food allergy in the United States and caregivers' willingness to pay for food allergy treatment.
Design, setting, and participants: A cross-sectional survey was conducted from November 28, 2011, through January 26, 2012. A representative sample of 1643 US caregivers of a child with a current food allergy were recruited for participation.
Main outcomes and measures: Caregivers of children with food allergies were asked to quantify the direct medical, out-of-pocket, lost labor productivity, and related opportunity costs. As an alternative valuation approach, caregivers were asked their willingness to pay for an effective food allergy treatment.
Results: The overall economic cost of food allergy was estimated at $24.8 (95% CI, $20.6-$29.4) billion annually ($4184 per year per child). Direct medical costs were $4.3 (95% CI, $2.8-$6.3) billion annually, including clinician visits, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations. Costs borne by the family totaled $20.5 billion annually, including lost labor productivity, out-of-pocket, and opportunity costs. Lost labor productivity costs totaled $0.77 (95% CI, $0.53-$1.0) billion annually, accounting for caregiver time off work for medical visits. Out-of-pocket costs were $5.5 (95% CI, $4.7-$6.4) billion annually, with 31% stemming from the cost of special foods. Opportunity costs totaled $14.2 (95% CI, $10.5-$18.4) billion annually, relating to a caregiver needing to leave or change jobs. Caregivers reported a willingness to pay of $20.8 billion annually ($3504 per year per child) for food allergy treatment.
Conclusions and relevance: Childhood food allergy results in significant direct medical costs for the US health care system and even larger costs for families with a food-allergic child.