Given its societal importance, unpaid work should be included in economic evaluations of health care technology aiming to take a societal perspective. However, in practice this does not often appear to be the case. This paper provides an overview of the current place of unpaid work in economic evaluations in theory and in practice. It does so first by summarizing recommendations regarding the inclusion of unpaid labor reported in health economic textbooks and national guidelines for economic evaluations. In total, three prominent health economic text-books were studied and 28 national health economic guidelines. The paper, moreover, provides an overview of the instruments available to measure lost unpaid labor and reports on a review of the place of unpaid labor in applied economic evaluations in the area of rheumatoid arthritis. The review was conducted by examining methodology of evaluations published between 1 March 2008 and 1 March 2013.The results of this study show that little guidance is offered regarding the inclusion of unpaid labor in economic evaluations in textbooks and guidelines. The review identified five productivity costs instruments including questions about unpaid work and 33 economic evaluations of treatments for rheumatoid arthritis of which only one included unpaid work. The results indicate that unpaid work is rarely included in applied economic evaluations of treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, despite this disease expecting to be associated with lost unpaid work. Given the strong effects of certain diseases and treatments on the ability to perform unpaid work, unpaid work currently receives less attention in economic evaluations than it deserves.

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Social Science & Medicine
Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (ESHPM)

Krol, M., & Brouwer, W. (2015). Unpaid work in health economic evaluations. Social Science & Medicine (Vol. 144, pp. 127–137). doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.09.008