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The article by Currie et al is highly critical of cost of injury studies, stating that “ . . . such studies are not helpful in the context of setting priorities for resource allocation and research activities”.1 The authors postulate that cost of injury studies add little to what is already known, such as deaths from motor vehicle crashes, hospital admissions, and emergency department visits. These routinely collected data, they say, provide direct and meaningful information about the size of the problem, if that is what is needed by decision makers for setting priorities for resource allocation and research activities. So, why spend additional resources and research time to describe the burden of motor vehicle crash injuries when the problem is adequately quantified? They conclude that research funds would be better spent by estimation of the effectiveness, costs, and benefits associated with different injury prevention strategies.
Cost of illness studies abound in the US. Are they all useless, as suggested by the authors? What do they measure? How are they used?
What do cost of illness studies measure?
When choices are made about the allocation of resources, who is affected? On whose behalf are decisions made? The answers to these questions define the perspective of cost studies. For example, costs or losses to industry or business due to a disease focus on the impact of absenteeism and lost productivity2,3; costs to public programs are accountable for their beneficiaries4; and costs to society take a comprehensive approach to estimating direct and indirect health and other related costs associated with an illness, disease, or injury.5,6
Cost of illness studies are typically divided into two major categories: (1) core costs are those resulting directly from the illness and (2) other related costs include non-health costs of the illness. Within each category, there …