Cost and economic evidence for asset-based approaches to health improvement and their evaluation methods: a systematic review

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Abstract

Background
Asset-based approaches (ABAs) tackle health inequalities by empowering people in more disadvantaged communities, or targeted populations, to better utilise pre-existing local community-based resources. Using existing resources supports individuals to better manage their own health and its determinants, potentially at low cost. Targeting individuals disengaged with traditional service delivery methods offers further potential for meaningful cost-savings, since these people often require costly care. Thus, improving prevention, and management, of ill-health in these groups may have considerable cost implications.

Aim
To systematically review the extent of current cost and economic evidence on ABAs, and methods used to develop it.

Methods
Search strategy terms encompassed: i) costing; ii) intervention detail; and iii) locality. Databases searched: Medline, CENTRAL and Wed of Science. Researchers screened 9,116 articles. Risk of bias was assessed using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) tool. Narrative synthesis summarised findings.

Results
Twelve papers met inclusion criteria, representing eleven different ABAs. Within studies, methods varied widely, not only in design and comparators, but also in terms of included costs and outcome measures. Studies suggested economic efficiency, but lack of suitable comparators made more definitive conclusions difficult.

Conclusion
Economic evidence around ABAs is limited. ABAs may be a promising way to engage underserved or minority groups, that may have lower net costs compared to alternative health and wellbeing improvement approaches. ABAs, an example of embedded services, suffer in the context of economic evaluation, which typically consider services as mutually exclusive alternatives. Economics of the surrounding services, mechanisms of information sharing, and collaboration underpin the success of assets and ABAs. The economic evidence, and evaluations in general, would benefit from increased context and detail to help ensure more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the economics of ABAs. Further evidence is needed to reach conclusions about cost-effectiveness of ABAs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number814
JournalBMC Public Health
Volume24
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2024

Keywords

  • Asset
  • Community development
  • Costing
  • Economic evaluation
  • Equity
  • Inequalities
  • Marginalised
  • Social connection

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