Cost Effectiveness of Life Saving Interventions

Aaron posts about the word on changing recommendations for child safety seats (when to face them forward; safer to stay rear-facing after age 1). He notes that if we used the standard of absolute mortality reduction, we would keep them rear facing for much longer, and would actually never put a kid in a car. What is needed is a meaningful discussion of the trade-off between harm reduction and the cost to achieve it.  This reminded me of the paper by Tammy Tengs (ungated)  “Five Hundred Life Saving Interventions and Their Cost Effectiveness.”  They defined cost effectiveness as the net resources required to be spent per life year saved.  There is incredible variation in what we are willing to pay to avoid a statistical life-year saved depending upon the context (from absolute savings to over $10 Billion/life year saved).  In the realm of child safety a few quick examples of cost-effectiveness of life saving interventions (per life year saved, in 1993$):

  • child safety seats in cars, $73,000
  • flammability standards in upholstered furniture, $300
  • flammability standards in children’s clothing, size 7-14, $15,000,000
  • flammability standards in children’s clothing, size 0-6x, $220,000
  • child resistant cigarette lighters, $42,000
  • signal arms on school buses, $420,000
  • influenza vaccine age 5+ $1,300

UPDATE: fixed a few typos.

About Don Taylor
Professor of Public Policy (with appointments in Business, Nursing, Community and Family Medicine, and the Duke Clinical Research Institute), and Chair of the Academic Council at Duke University . I am one of the founding faculty of the Margolis Center for Health Policy. My research focuses on improving care for persons who are dying, and I am co-PI of a CMMI award in Community Based Palliative Care. I teach both undergrads and grad students at Duke. On twitter @donaldhtaylorjr

One Response to Cost Effectiveness of Life Saving Interventions

  1. me says:

    Speaking of – there was an incident in Seattle tonight that had a total of 12 fire engines and ambulances and 6 police cars as well as one police boat make it to the middle of 520. On the bridge itself, no sign of an accident. Cars were backed up all the way onto i-5 with no movement. The reason: a boat had been wedged under the bridge, with two people injured.

    This is not the first time I’ve seen an unbelievable over-response by emergency services. I mean, I’ve seen two people rescued by two cars in other countries before.

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