Since resources are finite, investing in services that produce the highest health gain ‘return on investment’ is critical. We assessed the extent to which low and middle-income countries (LMIC) have included cost-saving interventions in their national strategic health plans.
We used the Tufts Medical Center Global Health Cost-Effectiveness Analysis Registry, an open-source database of English-language cost-per-disability-adjusted life year (DALY) studies, to identify analyses published in the last 10 years (2008–2017) of cost-saving health interventions in LMICs. To assess whether countries prioritised cost-saving interventions within their latest national health strategic plans, we identified 10 countries, all in sub-Saharan Africa, with the highest measures on the global burden of disease scale and reviewed their national health priority plans.
We identified 392 studies (63%) targeting LMICs that reported 3315 cost-per-DALY ratios, of which 207 ratios (6%) represented interventions reported to be cost saving. Over half (53%) of these targeted sub-Saharan Africa. For the 10 countries we investigated in sub-Saharan Africa, 58% (79/137) of cost-saving interventions correspond with priorities identified in country plans. Alignment ranged from 95% (21/22 prioritised cost-saving ratios) in South Africa to 17% (2/12 prioritised cost-saving ratios) in Cameroon. Human papillomavirus vaccination was a noted priority in 70% (7/10) of national health prioritisation plans, while 40% (4/10) of countries explicitly included prenatal serological screening for syphilis. HIV prevention and treatment were stated priorities in most country health plans, whereas 40% (2/5) of countries principally outlined efforts for lymphatic filariasis. From our sample of 45 unique interventions, 36% of interventions (16/45) included costs associated directly with the implementation of the intervention.
Our findings indicate substantial variation across country and disease area in incorporating economic evidence into national health priority plans in a sample of sub-Saharan African countries. To make health economic data more salient, the authors of cost-effectiveness analyses must do more to reflect implementation costs and other factors that could limit healthcare delivery.