Cost effectiveness and cost utility of preventing trachomatous visual impairment: lessons from 30 years of trachoma control in Burma.
AIMS/BACKGROUND: This paper reports on the findings of a cost and effectiveness study of the trachoma control programme (TCP) in Burma. The TCP began in 1964 employing non-surgical interventions (community education and mass treatment with topical antibiotics) and surgical correction of trichiasis. METHODS: Fixed and variable costs of the TCP are assessed over 30 years (1964-93) and apportioned to either surgical or non-surgical interventions. The change in the prevalence of trachoma blindness during this period is used to calculate cases of visual impairment prevented by the TCP. The years of life saved because of premature mortality averted and from living in a handicapped state are added to yield a single measure of utility called handicap adjusted life years (HALYs). RESULTS: The cost effectiveness of the TCP is $54 per case of visual impairment prevented: $193 and $47 for surgical and non-surgical interventions respectively. The cost utility of the TCP is $4 per HALY averted: $10 and $3 for surgical and non-surgical interventions respectively. Results are highly sensitive to the 1965 prevalence of blindness, the choice of discount rate, and the effectiveness of both interventions. CONCLUSIONS: Thirty years of trachoma control in Burma are associated with a remarkable decline in trachomatous blindness. Both surgical and non-surgical interventions are cost effective means of preventing trachomatous visual impairment. Discussion focuses on methodological limitations and implications for research and policy.