Today I spent the day learning more about health economics and cost-effectiveness analysis of health services. Sounds boring? Not at all. As a society we appear to have developed an endless appetite for health services. We all want ourselves and our families to have the best health possible but are we willing to pay for it? What is it worth to us? What do we miss out on as a society by spending that money on a particular health service? What is particular health outcome worth to us?

Children with speech and/or language difficulties are at higher risk of later learning and literacy problems (find more information here) and lots of other problems too such as increased risk of violent crime and being less likely to complete high school.  Sounds depressing until you consider that this can be prevented or minimised through early intervention. Early intervention for speech and language difficulties is effective but is it worth the cost?

James J. Heckman from the University of Chicago said, “early interventions have much higher economic returns than later interventions for disadvantaged children such as reduced pupil-teacher ratios, public job training, convict rehabilitation programs, adult literacy programs, tuition subsidies or expenditures on police.”

Early intervention for children at risk has been shown to yield 8-14 dollars in benefit per dollar invested in providing the early intervention. That’s the kind of healthcare I want to be a part of! So the next time you think about paying for your child’s early intervention therapy consider the benefits of investing that money in their future.