Cost of Nine Pediatric Infectious Illnesses in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review of Cost-of-Illness Studies

Pharmacoeconomics. 2020 Oct;38(10):1071-1094. doi: 10.1007/s40273-020-00940-4.


Background: Cost-of-illness data from empirical studies provide insights into the use of healthcare resources including both expenditures and the opportunity cost related to receiving treatment.

Objective: The objective of this systematic review was to gather cost data and relevant parameters for hepatitis B, pneumonia, meningitis, encephalitis caused by Japanese encephalitis, rubella, yellow fever, measles, influenza, and acute gastroenteritis in children in low- and middle-income countries.

Data sources: Peer-reviewed studies published in public health, medical, and economic journals indexed in PubMed (MEDLINE), Embase, and EconLit.

Study eligibility criteria, participants, and interventions: Studies must (1) be peer reviewed, (2) be published in 2000-2016, (3) provide cost data for one of the nine diseases in children aged under 5 years in low- and middle-income countries, and (4) generated from primary data collection.

Limitations: We cannot exclude missing a few articles in our review. Measures were taken to reduce this risk. Several articles published since 2016 are omitted from the systematic review results, these articles are included in the discussion.

Conclusions and implications of key findings: The review yielded 37 articles and 267 sets of cost estimates. We found no cost-of-illness studies with cost estimates for hepatitis B, measles, rubella, or yellow fever from primary data. Most estimates were from countries in Gavi preparatory (28%) and accelerated (28%) transition, followed by those who are initiating self-financing (22%) and those not eligible for Gavi support (19%). Thirteen articles compared household expenses to manage illnesses with income and two articles with other household expenses, such as food, clothing, and rent. An episode of illness represented 1-75% of the household's monthly income or 10-83% of its monthly expenses. Articles that presented both household and government perspectives showed that most often governments incurred greater costs than households, including non-medical and indirect costs, across countries of all income statuses, with a few notable exceptions. Although limited for low- and middle-income country settings, cost estimates generated from primary data collection provided a 'real-world' estimate of the economic burden of vaccine-preventable diseases. Additional information on whether common situations preventing the application of official clinical guidelines (such as medication stock-outs) occurred would help reveal deficiencies in the health system. Improving the availability of cost-of-illness evidence can inform the public policy agenda about healthcare priorities and can help to operationalize the healthcare budget in local health systems to respond adequately to the burden of illness in the community.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Developing Countries*
  • Humans
  • Income*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies