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Economic analysis of prevention: Evaluating the ripple effect

Project title: Improving the economic analysis of prevention

Start date: June 2014
Estimated end date: December 2015

What is the issue?

There is a growing awareness of the limitations of existing methods of economic evaluation in capturing the full range of potential outcomes, costs and cost savings of disease-prevention activities.

Economic evaluation tends to measure bottom-line measures such as cost-effectiveness and changes in health outcomes, but it undervalues intermediate benefits, such as cultural or institutional changes that occur as a result of the intervention.

How is the project addressing the issue?

The aim of this project is to develop an approach to the economic analysis of prevention programs that is potentially broader than conventional forms of economic evaluation but simple enough to be used routinely.

The project is:

  • Examining approaches to the economic analysis of prevention programs
  • Identifying what criteria practitioners and policy makers use to inform investment decisions in prevention (ideal and in practice)
  • Identifying contexts in which economic evidence is used
  • Establishing guidelines for evaluation that are consistent with the objectives of decision making.

What are the expected outcomes?

The end result will be an approach to improve the quality and relevance of economic analysis for prevention as well as guidelines for organisations and governments to do economic evaluation of prevention programs that measures the wider benefits.

Project lead

Project team

The project is developing practical and simple ways to assess the wider economic impacts of prevention interventions, beyond cost and cost-effectiveness, and will also provide guidelines that allow policy makers to make better decisions about the wider benefits of prevention programs.

  • Ethics through University of Sydney approved
  • Meetings of investigators in Sydney held in July and October 2014
  • Two systematic reviews have begun. One review is focusing on prevention-based economic evaluations, specifically on interventions targeting behavioural and social changes. The other review is identifying all guides that have been published on economic evaluations in health care.
  • The first draft of a guide to commissioning economic evaluations in population and public health was completed and sent to NSW Health for review and feedback.



Professor Stephen Jan’s presentation to the Prevention Centre Investigators’ Forum, October 2014
General framework for economic value of prevention (PDF, 81KB)


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