A Framework for Developing the Structure of Public Health Economic Models

Value Health. 2016 Jul-Aug;19(5):588-601. doi: 10.1016/j.jval.2016.02.011. Epub 2016 Apr 23.


Background: A conceptual modeling framework is a methodology that assists modelers through the process of developing a model structure. Public health interventions tend to operate in dynamically complex systems. Modeling public health interventions requires broader considerations than clinical ones. Inappropriately simple models may lead to poor validity and credibility, resulting in suboptimal allocation of resources.

Objective: This article presents the first conceptual modeling framework for public health economic evaluation.

Methods: The framework presented here was informed by literature reviews of the key challenges in public health economic modeling and existing conceptual modeling frameworks; qualitative research to understand the experiences of modelers when developing public health economic models; and piloting a draft version of the framework.

Results: The conceptual modeling framework comprises four key principles of good practice and a proposed methodology. The key principles are that 1) a systems approach to modeling should be taken; 2) a documented understanding of the problem is imperative before and alongside developing and justifying the model structure; 3) strong communication with stakeholders and members of the team throughout model development is essential; and 4) a systematic consideration of the determinants of health is central to identifying the key impacts of public health interventions. The methodology consists of four phases: phase A, aligning the framework with the decision-making process; phase B, identifying relevant stakeholders; phase C, understanding the problem; and phase D, developing and justifying the model structure. Key areas for further research involve evaluation of the framework in diverse case studies and the development of methods for modeling individual and social behavior.

Conclusions: This approach could improve the quality of Public Health economic models, supporting efficient allocation of scarce resources.

Keywords: conceptual modeling; guidance; methods; public health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Concept Formation*
  • Models, Economic*
  • Public Health*
  • Quality of Health Care