The value of social investments : A health economic approach to evaluating parenting interventions

Abstract: Child mental health problems are current welfare challenges and may be costly to the individual, the family and society at large. The problems may persist and result in adverse outcomes later in life, which also carries a large financial burden. Parenting interventions are effective strategies to prevent or reduce mental health problems in children and are potentially cost-effective and even cost-saving. This thesis sets out to fill the knowledge gaps regarding the social investment case for parenting interventions in Sweden. Study I evaluated five indicated parenting interventions compared to a waitlist control. Long-term projections of health-related quality-of-life and cost-offsets related to the reduction of externalising behaviour problems in children were made using an economic decision simulation model. Study II assessed the financial impact of the five parenting interventions, considering the child´s lifetime earnings. Study III assessed whether it was worth the extra spending to provide cognitive behavioural therapy for children, in addition to a parenting program, for the treatment of oppositional defiant disorder in children. A net benefit regression framework was employed to assess the willingness-to-pay needed for the intervention to become cost-effective. Study IV was a trial-based evaluation of a selective intervention delivered to Somali-born parents, valuing the health and economic impact on parents and children simultaneously, compared to a waitlist control. The evaluation merged impacts on parents and children to describe potential scenarios for cost-effectiveness. To provide an overview of the current evidence, Study V systematically reviewed the literature on the cost-effectiveness of parenting interventions, focusing on child outcomes. Results showed that the five indicated parenting interventions were highly cost-effective, and may yield substantial economic returns. Delivery of a parenting intervention in addition to an intervention for children yielded clinically relevant improvements but came at a cost exceeding estimates for the societal cost of children with oppositional defiant disorder. The delivery of a selective intervention generated significantly improved health outcomes, but cost-effectiveness depended on the willingness-to-pay, especially considering multiple effects concurrently. The systematic literature review suggested that parenting interventions were likely to be a cost-effective use of resources, particularly for the prevention of externalising and internalising problems. The findings suggest that parenting interventions may be a cost-effective approach for the prevention and treatment of child mental health problems, especially for externalising problems.