Health economics in public health
Economic analysis is an important tool in deciding how to allocate scarce public health resources; however, there is currently a dearth of such analysis by public health researchers.
Public health researchers and practitioners were surveyed to determine their current use of health economics and to identify barriers to use as well as potential strategies to decrease those barriers in order to allow them to more effectively incorporate economic analyses into their work. Data collected from five focus groups informed survey development. The survey included a demographic section and 14 multi-part questions. Participants were recruited in 2006 from three national public health organizations through e-mail; 294 academicians, practitioners, and community representatives answered the survey.
Survey data were analyzed in 2007. Despite an expressed belief in the importance of health economics, more than half of the respondents reported very little or no current use of health economics in their work. Of those using health economics, cost–benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis and determination of public health costs were cited as the measures used most frequently. The most important barriers were lack of expertise, funding, time, tools, and data, as well as discomfort with economic theory. The resource deemed most important to using health economics was collaboration with economists or those with economic training. Respondents indicated a desire to learn more about health economics and tools for performing economic analysis.
Given the importance of incorporating economic analysis into public health interventions, and the desire of survey respondents for more collaboration with health economists, opportunities for such collaborations should be increased.