Assessing cost-effectiveness in prevention

11 Oct 2010

An ageing population, population growth, technological advances and increasing expectations of the health system will continue to sharpen our focus on a system that delivers value for money.

Pressure to deliver more with Australian health budgets will continue to grow.

Ensuring our scarce health resources are directed to where they can be most effective in improving the health and quality of life of all Australians - particularly for those with the poorest health outcomes- is a crucial task for those managing our health systems.

This groundbreaking major five-year study, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), and run under the auspices of the Centre for Burden of Disease and Cost-Effectiveness at the University of Queensland and Deakin Health Economics at Deakin University, must be a foundation for a more effective system for health.

This research underpins a comprehensive analysis of the value of many health advancement strategies to address the burden of preventable death and disease in Australia.

Importantly, the findings demonstrate how to achieve not only a more efficient system of health, but also a fairer system. The report’s focus on deeply entrenched health inequalities facing Indigenous Australians paints a striking picture -we simply must do more to improve the physical and mental health of those experiencing social, economic or geographical disadvantage.

This report has evaluated the cost-effectiveness of 150 preventive health interventions, addressing areas such as mental health, diabetes, tobacco use, alcohol use, nutrition, body weight, physical activity, blood pressure, blood cholesterol and bone mineral density.

It challenges us to learn more from intervention experiences in tobacco control and sun safety, which have demonstrated enormous benefit in the past from well-targeted and sustained activity. Similar success is possible in areas such as alcohol use and obesity, which have received low levels of investment in past decades. Additional investment, however, should not be at the expense of continuing effort in the areas in which we are making inroads.

As the community and decision-makers become more aware of the need to allocate more resources to and take some tough decisions about prevention, it is vital that action be based on the best available evidence, not on speculation or anecdotal evidence. The importance of this landmark volume is that it shows the possibilities of evidence-based decision-making on prevention. It also clearly shows where more research is needed.
In addition to identifying what we must do more of, the report suggests what we should do less of, to achieve a healthier community and a health system that delivers better value for money.

This report is the largest and most rigorous evaluation of preventive strategies undertaken anywhere in the world, and challenges us to think more deeply about the value of health to society and the strategies to achieve a healthier and fairer society.

This report was produced jointly by the Centre for the Burden of Disease and Cost-Effectiveness, School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Brisbane and Deakin Health Economics, Strategic Research Centre–Population Health, Deakin University, Melbourne.

Authors: Theo Vos, Rob Carter, Jan Barendregt, Cathrine Mihalopoulos, Lennert Veerman, Anne Magnus, Linda Cobiac, Melanie Bertram, Angela Wallace

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