Dying Too Soon: How Cost-Effectiveness Analysis Can Save Lives

Policy Reports | Health

No. 204
Saturday, June 01, 1996
by Tammy O. Tengs

Conclusion: Cost-Effectiveness Can Save Lives

"Choosing the most cost-effective regulations would double the life-years saved."

This paper has demonstrated why the simple ratio of the cost of a health promotion intervention to the health benefits accrued can be very helpful in making public health decisions. It shows that cost-effective interventions can benefit few or many; can be very or not very effective; can be expensive or inexpensive. When maximizing survival is the goal, the use of cost-effectiveness information for selecting investments outperforms other strategies, such as considering only the number of people affected, considering only the effectiveness or considering only the cost.

Because we fail to base public health decisions on cost-effectiveness, we sacrifice many lives every year. Allowing cost-effectiveness to inform those decisions will improve the allocation of scarce life-saving resources.

NOTE: Nothing written here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the National Center for Policy Analysis or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before Congress.

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