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Strengthen the Evidence for Maternal and Child Health Programs

Cost-Effectiveness and Cost-benefit Analysis in MCH

Professional Resource Brief


This resource brief provides current, high-quality resources about cost effectiveness analysis and cost-benefit analysis in maternal and child health. These two economic evaluation techniques are used to examine the costs of interventions relative to the benefits that they produce, either the costs and consequences of competing interventions for a given client group within a given budget or the costs of a policy or program over time compared to improvements in health expressed in monetary (dollar) terms. See the Glossary of Terms by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

In addition, the brief provides links to discussions of effective programs and evidence-based practices that achieve health and wellness goals but that are not analyzed in terms of costs for the benefits achieved.

The brief is intended to help policy makers and program administrators make decisions about funding services and programs in maternal and child health.


Association of State and Territorial Health Officials: Making the Case for MCH Programs.
Resources exploring cost-based or economic-based analyses of programs and policies, including a glossary, annotated bibliography of peer-reviewed studies, and examples from states that have conducted cost analyses of programs.

Urban Institute Researcher Toolkit: Cost-Benefit Analysis
Definition of cost-benefit analysis, with research examples.

Washington State Department of Health, Genetic Services Policy Project: The role of cost-effectiveness analysis in decision making about genetic services. 2008.
Definitions of cost benefit analysis and cost effectiveness analysis, overview of their strengths and weaknesses.

Web Sites

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ): Evidence-Based Practice Centers.
Evidence reports and technology assessments on topics relevant to clinical, social science/behavioral, economic, and other health care organization and delivery issues. AHRQ also funds research on effectiveness and comparative effectiveness in its Effective Health Care Program.

Child Care and Early Education Research Connections
Scholarly research, policy briefs, government reports, data and instruments from a wide range of disciplines and U.S. and international sources, including multiple federal agencies. Search the research collection using terms such as “cost effective” or “cost benefit.”

Child Welfare Information Gateway: Making an Economic Case
Resources on cost-of-injury analysis, cost-benefit analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis, and calculating program costs.

Institute of Medicine and National Research Council: Considerations in applying benefit-cost analysis to preventive interventions for children, youth, and families: Workshop summary. 2014.
Workshop report on assessing the costs and benefits of interventions, issues to consider in benefit-cost analysis, and translating results to inform policy and practice. Examples from the field are included.

Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB). DataSpeak: Measuring the return on investment in maternal and child health programs. 2013.
Webinar on cost-benefit analyses and how maternal and child health (MCH) stakeholders can use findings from such studies at the federal, state, and local levels.

National Business Group on Health (NBGH)
Employer toolkits and other resources that explain the business case for addressing health conditions in employees and their families and that provide evidence-informed model benefit plans to address these concerns. In particular, see Investing in Maternal and Child Health: An Employer's Toolkit.

National Institute for Health Research: Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (England)
Databases of systematic reviews, economic evaluations, and health technology assessments on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of health care interventions world-wide.

Trust for America's Health
Reports, advocacy materials, and state data on major health issues such as child and school health, obesity, food safety, health disparities and others. Many resources discuss cost effectiveness.

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Find Journal Articles and Other Materials

Citations and abstracts from MEDLINE and other life science journals for biomedical articles indexed by the National Library of Medicine back to the 1950s, with links to full text of articles when available.

For a selection of articles published in the last 10 years, see this automated search "Cost Benefit Analysis in Maternal and Child Health Services".

Related MCH Digital Library Resources

These bibliographies are drawn from MCHLine®, the online library catalog of the Maternal and Child Health Library. They focus on recent publications from government agencies and national organizations such as reports, policy analyses, issue briefs, guidelines, training materials, and selected consumer information. The organizations list focuses on government agencies and national organizations that work on a broad range of maternal and child health issues and that provide information to the public.

For more information on this topic, use the MCH Digital Library Advanced Search using the term Cost effectiveness.

Authors: Olivia K. Pickett, M.A., M.L.S., MCH Digital Library
May 2014

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number U02MC31613, MCH Advanced Education Policy, $3.5 M. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.