Considerations in Applying Benefit-Cost Analysis to Preventive Interventions for Children, Youth, and Families - Workshop Summary


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Benefit-cost analyses hold great promise for influencing policies related to children, youth, and families. By comparing the costs of preventative interventions with the long-term benefits, benefit-cost analysis provides a tool for determining what kinds of investments have the greatest potential to reduce the physical, psychological, and behavioral health problems of children, youth, and families. However, the utility of benefit-cost analyses has been limited by a lack of uniformity in the methods and assumptions underlying these studies. Researchers use a variety of techniques to calculate the costs of a program and the benefits it produces. They report their results using different formats, with different levels of cost and benefit disaggregation and different levels of detail about underlying assumptions and uncertainties.

To explore this issue, the IOM/NRC Board on Children, Youth, and Families held a workshop November 18-19, 2013. The workshop brought together leading practitioners in the field, researchers who study the methodological and analytic dimensions of benefit-cost analysis, and representatives of organizations that use the results of benefit-cost analyses to shape and implement public policies. This document summarizes the workshop.