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J Health Commun. 2006;11 Suppl 2:7-45.

The cost-effectiveness of health communication programs: what do we know?

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  • 1Department of International Health and Development, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana 70112, USA.


While a considerable body of evidence has emerged supporting the effectiveness of communication programs in augmenting health, only a very small subset of studies has examined also whether these programs are cost-effective, that is, whether they achieve greater health gains for available financial resources than alternative interventions. In this article, we examine the available literature on the cost-effectiveness of health behavior change communication programs, focusing on communication interventions involving mass media, and, to a lesser extent, community mobilization and interpersonal communication or counseling. Our objective is to identify the state of past and current research efforts of the cost-effectiveness of behavior change communication programs. This review makes three principal conclusions. First, the analysis of the cost-effectiveness of health communication programs commonly has not been performed. Second, the studies reviewed here have utilized a considerable diversity of methods and have reflected varying levels of quality and adherence to standard cost-effectiveness methodologies. This leads to problems of transparency, comparability, and generalizability. Third, while the available studies generally are indicative of the cost-effectiveness of communication interventions relative to alternatives, the evidence base clearly needs to be expanded by additional rigorous cost-effectiveness analyses.

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