Prioritizing investments in public health: a multi-criteria decision analysis

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Abstract

Background

The evidence on public health interventions has traditionally focussed on a limited number of costs and benefits, adopted inconsistent methods and is not always relevant to the UK context. This paper develops a multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) approach to overcome these challenges.

Methods

A document review and stakeholder consultation was used to identify interventions and the criteria against which they should be assessed. The interventions were measured against these criteria using literature reviews and decision models. Criteria weights were generated using a discrete choice experiment.

Results

Fourteen interventions were included in the final ranking. Taxation was ranked as the highest priority. Mass-media campaigns and brief interventions ranked in the top half of interventions. School-based educational interventions, statins and interventions to address mental health problems ranked in the bottom half of interventions.

Conclusions

This paper demonstrates that it is possible to incorporate criteria other than cost-effectiveness in the prioritization of public health investment using an MCDA approach. There are numerous approaches available that adopt the MCDA framework. Further research is required to determine the most appropriate approach in different settings.

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