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The long-term effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of public health interventions; how can we model behavior? A review.

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Kelly, Michael P 
Gilbert, Nigel 
Sniehotta, Falko 
Purshouse, Robin C 


The effectiveness and cost of a public health intervention is dependent on complex human behaviors, yet health economic models typically make simplified assumptions about behavior, based on little theory or evidence. This paper reviews existing methods across disciplines for incorporating behavior within simulation models, to explore what methods could be used within health economic models and to highlight areas for further research. This may lead to better-informed model predictions. The most promising methods identified which could be used to improve modeling of the causal pathways of behavior-change interventions include econometric analyses, structural equation models, data mining and agent-based modeling; the latter of which has the advantage of being able to incorporate the non-linear, dynamic influences on behavior, including social and spatial networks. Twenty-two studies were identified which quantify behavioral theories within simulation models. These studies highlight the importance of combining individual decision making and interactions with the environment and demonstrate the importance of social norms in determining behavior. However, there are many theoretical and practical limitations of quantifying behavioral theory. Further research is needed about the use of agent-based models for health economic modeling, and the potential use of behavior maintenance theories and data mining.



cost effective, health behavior, inequality, mathematical models, microeconomic behavior, psychology, public health, public policy, simulation modeling, Humans, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Public Health

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Health Econ

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NIHR Fellowship Programme (NIHR301406)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (R01AA024443)