The economic evaluation of health surveillance systems and of health information is a methodological challenge, as for information systems in general. Main present threads are considering cost-effectiveness solutions, minimizing costs for a given technically required output, or cost-benefit analysis, balancing costs with economic benefits of duly informed public interventions. The latter option, following a linear command-and-control perspective, implies considering a main causal link between information, decision, action, and health benefits. Yet, valuing information, taking into account its nature and multiple sources, the modalities of its processing cycle, from production to diffusion, decentralized use and gradual building of a shared information capital, constitutes a promising challenge. This work proposes an interdisciplinary insight on the value of health surveillance to get a renewed theoretical framework integrating information and informatics theory and information economics. The reflection is based on a typological approach of value, basically distinguishing between use and non-use values. Through this structured discussion, the main idea is to expand the boundaries of surveillance evaluation, to focus on changes and trends, on the dynamic and networked structure of information systems, on the contribution of diverse data, and on the added value of combining qualitative and quantitative information. Distancing itself from the command-and-control model, this reflection considers the behavioral fundaments of many health risks, as well as the decentralized, progressive and deliberative dimension of decision-making in risk management. The framework also draws on lessons learnt from recent applications within and outside of health sector, as in surveillance of antimicrobial resistance, inter-laboratory networks, the use of big data or web sources, the diffusion of technological products and large-scale financial risks. Finally, the paper poses the bases to think the challenge of a workable approach to economic evaluation of health surveillance through a better understanding of health information value. It aims to avoid over-simplifying the range of health information benefits across society while keeping evaluation within the boundaries of what may be ascribed to the assessed information system.
Keywords: complexity; data; decision-making; framework; network; trend; typology; value.