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Integrating Retention Rates into Economic Analyses of Prevention Interventions

Prevention Science
Zach Timpe, Marc Winokur
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Evidence-based prevention interventions hold great promise for enhancing the well-being of individuals, families, and society. As these interventions are implemented in new contexts and at wider scales, policymakers and private sector organizations are increasingly interested in understanding the economic returns that programs produce through reductions of burden on public service systems, such as criminal justice and human services. Thus, it is important to ensure that economic models account for factors, such as retention, which are important when interventions are implemented in real-world contexts with selective populations and voluntary participation. Yet the field of prevention has provided little guidance to help researchers and policymakers analyze the economics of interventions so that estimates reflect the impact of implementation factors on intervention cost-effectiveness. This paper discusses the role retention plays in the economic efficiency of interventions when the prevention of child maltreatment is the primary motivation for funding these programs. We present a conceptual model to serve as a guide for explicit inclusion of retention rates when calculating cost estimates to be used in cost-effectiveness analysis. A case study is presented, demonstrating the variability in estimates dependent on the definition of retention and the estimated retention rate. The results underscore the importance of improving our understanding of factors underlying and related to retention, such as engagement, which may improve the precision of cost and cost-effectiveness analysis in applied settings.

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