How do you put a price on child health?

Child health
20 July 2020

Professor Emily Lancsar leads an international team from the ANU, University of Sydney, Flinders University, Oxford University, Bristol University and Glasgow Caledonian University* recently awarded $2.2m by the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to improve the measurement and valuation of child health to inform Government decision making on public funding for medicines, medical services and procedures.

But why this question?

“Here in Australia and internationally we already have robust economic and health technology assessment tools that help inform Government decisions about which medicines and medical services are publicly funded. This includes comparing the costs and benefits of different medicines, where benefits are often measured in terms of improvements in length of life and quality of life, captured in the metric of ‘Quality Adjusted Life Years’ (QALYs). But these metrics have been designed predominantly for adults” says Lancsar.

“We want to find out if these methods are appropriate for children.”

Policy makers identified this gap, and funding was awarded by the MRFF to the interdiciplinary team to develop and refine methods to measure and value child health, and then to use those methods to generate empirical values to inform policy. The research team will also question if adults or parents make good proxies for children in measuring and valuing changes in their health and whether health gains for children should be valued or weighted differently to health gains for adults.

“As you can imagine, many of the medicines, devices, and services considered for public subsidy are for children.”

The project will not only include collaboration between researchers, policy makers, clinicians, and child health organisations, but young people will also play an important part.

Australia has a proud history in being the first country to require economic evaluation as part of health technology assessment to inform decisions about which medicines receive public subsidy, with the aim of ensuring value for money; an approach now replicated in many developed countries.  This current work will continue that pioneering approach.

“It is an exciting program of work in which the team will push methodological boundaries and help inform policy in the important area of child health, with direct relevance not just to public policy in Australia but internationally” says Lancsar.

* Research team: Emily Lancsar and Elisabeth Huynh (ANU), Kirsten Howard, Martin Howell, Alison Hayes, Germaine Wong (University of Sydney), Jonathan Craig (Flinders), Stavros Petrou (Oxford University), Joanna Coast (Bristol University) and Cam Donaldson (Glasgow Caledonian University).