Social, ethical, and other value judgments in health economics modelling

Soc Sci Med. 2020 May:253:112975. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.112975. Epub 2020 Apr 2.


Modelling is a major method of inquiry in health economics. In other modelling-intensive fields, such as climate science, recent scholarship has described how social and ethical values influence model development. However, no similar work has been done in health economics. This study explored the role of social, ethical, and other values in health economics modelling using philosophical theory and qualitative interviews in British Columbia, Canada. Twenty-two professionals working in health economics modelling were interviewed between February and May, 2019. The study findings provide support for four philosophical arguments positing an essential role for social and ethical values throughout scientific inquiry and demonstrate how these arguments apply to health economics modelling. It highlights the role of social values in informing early modelling decisions, shaping model assumptions, making trade-offs between desirable model features, and setting standards of evidence. These results point to several decisions in the modelling process that warrant focus in future health economics research, particularly that which aims to incorporate patient and public values.

Keywords: Canada; Health economics; Modelling; PPI; Patient and public involvement; Patient-oriented research; Qualitative; Values.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • British Columbia
  • Economics
  • Economics, Medical*
  • Humans
  • Judgment*
  • Morals
  • Social Values