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In the light of demographic developments health promotion interventions for older people are gaining importance. In addition to methodological challenges arising from the economic evaluation of health promotion interventions in general, there are specific methodological problems for the particular target group of older people. There are especially four main methodological challenges that are discussed in the literature. They concern measurement and valuation of informal caregiving, accounting for productivity costs, effects of unrelated cost in added life years and the inclusion of ‘beyond-health’ benefits. This paper focuses on the question whether and to what extent specific methodological requirements are actually met in applied health economic evaluations.
Following a systematic review of pertinent health economic evaluations, the included studies are analysed on the basis of four assessment criteria that are derived from methodological debates on the economic evaluation of health promotion interventions in general and economic evaluations targeting older people in particular.
Of the 37 studies included in the systematic review, only very few include cost and outcome categories discussed as being of specific relevance to the assessment of health promotion interventions for older people. The few studies that consider these aspects use very heterogeneous methods, thus there is no common methodological standard.
There is a strong need for the development of guidelines to achieve better comparability and to include cost categories and outcomes that are relevant for older people. Disregarding these methodological obstacles could implicitly lead to discrimination against the elderly in terms of health promotion and disease prevention and, hence, an age-based rationing of public health care.