Background: Many interventions initiated within and financed from the health care sector are not necessarily primarily aimed at improving health. This poses important questions regarding the operationalisation of economic evaluations in such contexts. Aims of the Study: We investigated whether assessing cost-effectiveness using state-of-the-art methods commonly applied in health care evaluations is feasible and meaningful when evaluating interventions aimed at reducing youth delinquency. Methods: A probabilistic Markov model was constructed to create a framework for the assessment of the cost-effectiveness of systemic interventions in delinquent youth. For illustrative purposes, Functional Family Therapy (FFT), a systemic intervention aimed at improving family functioning and, primarily, reducing delinquent activity in youths, was compared to Treatment as Usual (TAU). "Criminal activity free years" (CAFYs) were introduced as central outcome measure. Criminal activity may e.g. be based on police contacts or committed crimes. In absence of extensive data and for illustrative purposes the current study based criminal activity on available literature on recidivism. Furthermore, a literature search was performed to deduce the model's structure and parameters. Results: Common cost-effectiveness methodology could be applied to interventions for youth delinquency. Model characteristics and parameters were derived from literature and ongoing trial data. The model resulted in an estimate of incremental costs/CAFY and included long-term effects. Illustrative model results point towards dominance of FFT compared to TAU. Discussion: Using a probabilistic model and the CAFY outcome measure to assess cost-effectiveness of systemic interventions aimed to reduce delinquency is feasible. However, the model structure is limited to three states and the CAFY measure was defined rather crude. Moreover, as the model parameters are retrieved from literature the model results are illustrative in the absence of empirical data. Implications for Health Care Provision and Use : The current model provides a framework to assess the cost-effectiveness of systemic interventions, while taking into account parameter uncertainty and long-term effectiveness. Implications for Health Policies: The framework of the model could be used to assess the cost-effectiveness of systemic interventions alongside (clinical) trial data. Consequently, it is suitable to inform reimbursement decisions, since the value for money of systemic interventions can be demonstrated using a decision analytic model. Implications for Further Research: Future research could be focussed on testing the current model based on extensive empirical data, improving the outcome measure and finding appropriate values for that outcome. Copyright
Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics
Department of Psychology

Schawo, S., van Eeren, H., Soeteman, D., Van Der Veldt, M.-C., Noom, M. J., Brouwer, W., … Hakkaart-van Roijen, L. (2012). Framework for modelling the cost-effectiveness of systemic interventions aimed to reduce youth delinquency. Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics, 15(4). Retrieved from