Advising the NSW Ministry of Health on economic evaluation in population health

Professor Stephen Jan
Professor Stephen Jan

Project title: Improving the economic analysis of prevention

Project lead: Professor Stephen Jan

August 2018

Prevention Centre research is informing the way the NSW Ministry of Health conducts economic evaluations in population health, following a project which found state health departments needed to increase capacity to make the business case for prevention.

Project lead, Professor Stephen Jan of the George Institute for Global Health, and Senior Research Fellow Dr Thomas Lung have been engaged by the Ministry to increase staff capability and to provide technical support for its process of commissioning economic evaluations.

Professor Jan said they were engaged to run a series of workshops after they prepared a guide on commissioning economic evaluations for the Ministry.

“It means these commissions are put out on a more consistent basis and they generate evidence that’s much more usable because it’s based more on sound economic principles rather than ad-hoc costings,” he said.

“It’s about process – helping NSW Health to commission research in this area of economic analysis in a much more effective way and in a way that’s methodologically more sound.”

Professor Jan’s Prevention Centre project set out to develop guidelines for economic analysis of prevention programs that would capture the benefits of prevention beyond traditional bottom line measurements.

Through two systematic reviews and interviews with policy makers, the team found there was a strong interest from policy makers to use more health economic evidence in decision-making.

However, they found different decision makers had different needs from economic evaluation. Some focused on strict return on investment evidence, while others needed to capture and understand the broader social impacts of investment in prevention, not just the financial return.

They also found that health departments needed to present their argument in terms of a business case. To do this, the researchers recommended greater co-production with end-users and capacity building in health economics among policy makers.

The project has led to several impacts. As well as providing ongoing advice for the Ministry, the team is also conducting workshops on commissioning economic evaluations and is working with the Ministry to plan a Roundtable event on Childhood Obesity as health economic advisers.

The team’s achievements in economic evaluations are:
  • Professor Jan and Dr Thomas Lung advised the NSW Ministry of Health and built capability to commission economic evaluations
  • The team prepared a guide on Commissioning Economic Evaluations for the NSW Ministry of Health
  • A qualitative paper on exploring the use of economic evidence in the investment in prevention was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health in April 2018
  • Professor Jan was invited to speak at a meeting about the Economic Evaluation of Health Promotion hosted by Thai Ministry of Public Health, The Health Intervention and Technology Assessment Program (HITAP), Mahidol University, Chulalongkorn University, and a number of other partners
  • Professor Jan joined the Lancet Taskforce on Economics and NCDs, which was engaged by the WHO Secretariat in its submission to the UN High Level meeting on NCDs in September 2018.