Cost Savings Alone Won't Lead to Coverage of Diet and Exercise Interventions

Exploratory meeting on the economic impact of health behavior change

On June 21–22, 2000, the Center for the Advancement of Health, Washington, convened a panel of experts in Princeton, N.J., to assess how economic analysis can play a role in promoting behavioral interventions to improve health.

A variety of behavior change interventions — including those focused on diet, weight control and physical activity — have been demonstrated to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and other serious illnesses.

Nonetheless, insurers, managed care organizations and policy-makers frequently require evidence that these interventions are not only cost-effective, but also that they can produce cost savings on other medical services.

Key Results

  • Some 16 invited experts — including health economists, epidemiologists, health plan representatives, patient advocates and researchers — met to explore these key questions:
    • Can the economic impact of behavior change interventions be measured?
    • Is it wise to invest energy, attention and resources to do so?
    • Where do opportunities exist to promote such analyses?
  • Participants identified a number of forms of economic analysis that can be used to assess the impact of behavior change interventions.

    Most familiar and widely used is cost-effectiveness analysis, which takes into account the cost of services, the response rates of groups targeted for treatment and the potential effects on illness, death and related health care costs.
  • Participants stated that promoting behavior change interventions will require a multi-level approach to:
    • Establish these services as the standard of care.
    • Increase demand for these services among consumers and health care providers.
    • Provide health plans with plan-relevant economic information that allows them to market themselves to employers and consumers.

An $85,449 grant from December 1999 to June 2000 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported the meeting.

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