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Live Long, Live Well: Quantifying the Health of Heterogenous Populations

  • John Mullahy

Various health-, quality-, and disability-adjusted life year or life expectancy (HALY, QALY, DALY; HALE, QALE, DALE) measures have become gold standards for defining outcomes in technology evaluation, population health monitoring, and other evaluative efforts. As such, it is critical that the analytical framework within which these measures are used for descriptive and evaluative purposes be theoretically consistent and statistically rigorous. For instance, widely-accepted definitions of cost-effectiveness ratios and other technology evaluation criteria that are based on expectations of the respective cost and outcome measures must as such be defined in terms of expected HALYs or QALYs. Similarly, measures like HALEs or QALEs used for population health monitoring are typically concerned with population expectations of such measures (or their corresponding totals). This paper demonstrates that estimation of such expectations necessarily requires consideration of the population variation in and covariation between quality and longevity. From the perspective of several different environments characterizing such heterogeneity, quantification or estimation of measures like QUALs are recondidered. An empirical example of the central issues is provided by means of an analysis of the Years of Healthy Life (YHL) measure drawn from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7895.

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Date of creation: Sep 2000
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as John Mullahy, 2001. "Live long, live well: quantifying the health of heterogeneous populations," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(5), pages 429-440.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7895
Note: HC HE
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  1. Aaron A. Stinnett & John Mullahy, 1998. "Net Health Benefits: A New Framework for the Analysis of Uncertainty in Cost-Effectiveness Analysis," NBER Technical Working Papers 0227, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Donald S. Shepard & Richard J. Zeckhauser, 1982. "The Choice of Health Policies with Heterogeneous Populations," NBER Chapters, in: Economic Aspects of Health, pages 253-298 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Atkinson, Anthony B & Bourguignon, Francois, 1982. "The Comparison of Multi-Dimensioned Distributions of Economic Status," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(2), pages 183-201, April.
  4. Gerdtham, Ulf-G. & Johannesson, Magnus, 1999. "Income-Related Inequality in Life-Years and Quality-Adjusted Life-Years," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 334, Stockholm School of Economics.
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