The expected costs and health effects of health care interventions are often summarised as cost effectiveness ratios. These provide a useful summary of how much additional resource is required to achieve a measured improvement in health, or how much health is delivered for an amount of additional resource. Whether an effective intervention will improve health outcomes overall requires a comparison with the likely health opportunity costs, i.e. the improvement in health that would have been possible if any additional resources required had, instead, been made available for other health care activities. These health opportunity costs are the amount of health that a health care system currently delivers with more or less resources, so what is required are estimates of the health effects of changes in health expenditure. An assessment of the likely health opportunity costs in different health care systems means that evidence of the effectiveness and cost of an intervention can better inform decisions. Most importantly, it ensures that decisions improve rather than reduce health outcomes overall.
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