Nutrition & Diet for Healthy Lifestyles in Europe

Cost effectiveness of cardiovascular disease prevention strategies: a perspective on EU food based dietary guidelines

Eric Brunner1*, David Cohen2, Lynn Toon1

  1. International Centre for Health and Society, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London Medical School, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK:
  2. Business School, University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, CF37 1DL, UK

Short Title: Cost effectiveness of CVD prevention strategies

Keywords : Cardiovascular disease, Health promotion, Lifestyle, Diet, Smoking cessation, Simvastatin, Health economy

For policymakers considering strategy options for the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) the distinction between effectiveness and cost effectiveness is critical. When cost limitations apply, an evaluation of cost effectiveness is essential if a rational decision is to be made. Policy changes and resource reallocation have opportunity costs, and therefore it is necessary to compare the cost of health gains achievable by means of different policies. Here the broad question is: How cost effective are diet change strategies compared to other measures aimed at reducing cardiovascular disease in EU member states?
An overview of published studies of cost-effectiveness in the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease was conducted. Few comprehensive studies were available.
    Estimated costs per life year gained were as follows: population-based healthy eating 14-560; smoking cessation 300-790; nurse screening and life style advice 900 (minimum); simvastatin (HMGCoA reductase inhibitor) 6200-11,300. Cost effectiveness is dependent on the underlying level of CVD risk in the target population, and the duration of the achieved alterations in behaviours and risk factors.
The limited evidence from these studies tends to support the view that health protection strategies which promote healthy eating are likely to be more cost-effective than strategies involving modern cholesterol-lowering drugs, screening and advice in primary care, and are comparable to or less expensive per year of life saved than anti-smoking strategies. Given the considerable diversity in food habits, health care and public health systems among current and prospective EU member states, careful appraisal of the policy options within each member state is desirable to ensure that health gain is maximised. EU wide food based dietary guidelines are potentially the basis of large health gains in Europe, and cost-effectiveness studies tend to support their adoption.


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