A framework for conducting economic evaluations alongside natural experiments

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Abstract

Internationally, policy makers are increasingly focussed on reducing the detrimental consequences and rising costs associated with unhealthy diets, inactivity, smoking, alcohol and other risk factors on the health of their populations. This has led to an increase in the demand for evidence-based, cost-effective Population Health Interventions (PHIs) to reverse this trend. Given that research designs such as randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are often not suited to the evaluation of PHIs, Natural Experiments (NEs) are now frequently being used as a design to evaluate such complex, preventive PHIs. However, current guidance for economic evaluation focusses on RCT designs and therefore does not address the specific challenges of NE designs. Using such guidance can lead to sub-optimal design, data collection and analysis for NEs, leading to bias in the estimated effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the PHI. As a consequence, there is a growing recognition of the need to identify a robust methodological framework for the design and conducting of economic evaluations alongside such NEs. This paper outlines the challenges inherent to the design and conduct of economic evaluations of PHIs alongside NEs, providing a comprehensive framework and outlining a research agenda in this area.

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Deidda, M., Geue, C., Kreif, N., Dundas, R., & McIntosh, E. (2019). A framework for conducting economic evaluations alongside natural experiments. Social Science and Medicine, 220, 353–361. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.11.032

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