Health economics

    This area of work in WHO covers both technical and allocative efficiency: Costing and budget impact, global price tags and investment cases, cost-effectiveness analysis and health technology assessment, benefit package design and priority setting and resource allocation.  The following tools facilitate the above mentioned work: WHO-CHOICE and the One Health Tool for costing and cost-effectiveness analysis, Accesmod for geographic modelling and EPIC for estimating economic consequences of disease and injury. 


    Our work

    The following are the key areas of our work: 

    Health technology assessment and Benefit Package Design - One of the key objectives for policymakers is to use existing and additional resources efficiently. This calls for prioritizing between and amongst interventions. There are several initiatives related to health technology assessment (HTA) and health benefit package design. These are: 

    1. A survey on HTA and health benefit packages.
    2. The WHO-CHOICE (Choosing interventions that are Cost-Effective) project, with the Generalized Cost-Effectiveness Analysis methodology.
    3. The UHC Compendium.
    4. The OneHealth Tool, used to help countries to examine the costs and feasibility of their strategic plans, as well as to evaluate the plan’s impact.

    Costing and Technical Efficiency - The work on costing and technical efficiency explores questions around resource use in the health sector. Strategies for improving health and expanding access to health care services need to be examined from a resource perspective in order to ensure that they are feasible, efficient, affordable and sustainable.  

    Health and the economy – While measurements of morbidity and mortality are key considerations for estimating the burden of disease in populations, they provide an incomplete picture of the adverse impact of ill health on human welfare. In particular, the economic consequences of poor health can be substantial. Analysis of the economic impact of ill-health addresses a number of policy questions concerning the consequences of disease or injury. Some of these questions relate to the microeconomic level of households, firms or government – such as the impact of ill-health on a household’s income or a firm’s profits – while others relate to the macroeconomic level, including the aggregate impact of a disease on a country’s current and future gross domestic product (GDP). WHO proposes a defined conceptual framework within which the economic impact of diseases and injuries can be considered and appropriately estimated.

    Tools used

    AccessMod – This is a toolbox that has been developed by WHO in order to assist countries to examine the geographic aspects of their health system. It specifically addresses the first three layers of a well-known framework developed by Tanahashi (1978) to evaluate health service coverage (the specific three layers being: the target population, availability coverage and accessibility coverage).

    EPIC – It is a model to estimate the burden of ill-health (or, conversely the contribution of improving health) on economic performance, through the direct and indirect impacts that health has on two key production factors: the labour force and physical capital. EPIC estimates how changes in health status affect the size of the effective labour force and the accumulation of physical capital and ultimately national income. EPIC may be used to conduct investment case in health.

    One Health Tool - The OneHealth Tool is a software tool designed to inform national strategic health planning in low- and middle-income countries. While many costing tools take a narrow disease-specific approach, the OneHealth Tool attempts to link strategic objectives and targets of disease control and prevention programmes to the required investments in health systems. The tool provides planners with a single framework for scenario analysis, costing, health impact analysis, budgeting, and financing of strategies for all major diseases and health system components. It is thus primarily intended to inform sector wide national strategic health plans and policies.

    UHC Compendium - The UHC Compendium is a database of health services and intersectoral interventions designed to assist countries in making progress towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC). It provides a strategic way to organize and present information and creates a framework to think about health services and health interventions. The database for the Compendium spans the full spectrum of promotive, preventive, resuscitative, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative services, as well as a full complement of intersectoral interventions. The Compendium will provide rapid one-stop access to supporting evidence, associated human and material resource inputs, and feedback on cost impact as interventions are selected. 


    Latest publications

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    WHO menu of cost-effective interventions for mental health

    IntroductionIn 2019, the Seventy-second World Health Assembly requested the WHO Director-General to prepare a menu of policy options and cost-effective...

    Institutionalizing health technology assessment mechanisms: a how to guide

    It is increasing apparent that countries are finding it difficult  to finance their universal health coverage goals.  They must generate more...

    Principles of health benefit packages

    No country in the world is able to provide every health service to everyone. Choices must be made on the path to universal health coverage.  By changing...

    Sustaining lives and livelihoods: a decision framework for calibrating social and movement measures during the COVID-19 pandemic

    Social and physical distancing and restrictions on international travel (thereafter “social and movement measures”) have been introduced to...


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    The Council was established in late 2020 by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Director-General, WHO) to provide new economic thinking – reassessing...

    The Council was established in late 2020 by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Director-General, WHO) to provide new economic thinking – reassessing...

    30 November 2022

    One year overview

    The WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All has issued a report on its activities at the one-year mark, half-way through its mandate. The Council...


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