Assessing the cost and economic impact of tertiary-level pediatric cancer care in Tanzania

PLoS One. 2022 Nov 18;17(11):e0273296. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0273296. eCollection 2022.


Background: Worldwide, an estimated 400,000 children develop cancer each year. The bulk of the mortalities from these cases occur in low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs). In Sub-Saharan Africa, there is a tremendous need to strengthen the capacity of health systems to provide high-quality cancer care for children. However, a lack of data on the economic impact of cancer treatment in low-resource settings hinders its consideration as a healthcare priority. To address this gap, this study models the clinical and financial impact of pediatric cancer care in Tanzania, a lower-middle income country in East Africa.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of patients with cancer under the age of 19 years treated at Bugando Medical Centre from January 2010 to August 2014. Information was collected from a total of 161 children, including demographics, type of cancer, care received, and five-year survival outcomes. This data was used to calculate the number of averted disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) with treatment. Charges for all direct medical costs, fixed provider costs, and variable provider costs were used to calculate total cost of care. The societal economic impact of cancer treatment was modeled using the value of statistical life (VSL) and human capital methods.

Findings: The total health impact for these 161 children was 819 averted DALYs at a total cost of $846,743. The median cost per patient was $5,064 ($4,746-5,501 interquartile range). The societal economic impact of cancer treatment ranged from $590,534 to $3,647,158 using VSL method and $1,776,296 using a human capital approach.

Interpretation: Despite the limitations of existing treatment capacity, economic modeling demonstrates a positive economic impact from providing pediatric cancer care in Tanzania. As many countries like Tanzania progress towards achieving Universal Health Coverage, these key economic indicators may encourage future investment in comprehensive pediatric cancer care programs in low-resource settings to achieve clinically and economically beneficial results not only for the individual patients, but for the country as a whole.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Developing Countries*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Poverty
  • Tanzania / epidemiology
  • Young Adult