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Health economics methods for public health resource allocation: a qualitative interview study of decision makers from an English local authority

  • Emma Frew (a1) and Katie Breheny (a1)

Local authorities in England have responsibility for public health, however, in recent years, budgets have been drastically reduced placing decision makers under unprecedented financial pressure. Although health economics can offer support for decision making, there is limited evidence of it being used in practice. The aim of this study was to undertake in-depth qualitative research within one local authority to better understand the context for public health decision making; what, and how economics evidence is being used; and invite suggestions for how methods could be improved to better support local public health decision making. The study included both observational methods and in-depth interviews. Key meetings were observed and semi-structured interviews conducted with participants who had a decision-making role to explore views on economics, to understand the barriers to using evidence and to invite suggestions for improvements to methods. Despite all informants valuing the use of health economics, many barriers were cited: including a perception of a narrow focus on the health sector; lack of consideration of population impact; and problems with translating long timescales to short term impact. Methodological suggestions included the broadening of frameworks; increased use of natural experiments; and capturing wider non-health outcomes that resonate with the priorities of multiple stakeholders.

Corresponding author
*Correspondence to: Emma Frew, Health Economics Unit, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK. Email:
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Health Economics, Policy and Law
  • ISSN: 1744-1331
  • EISSN: 1744-134X
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