Conduct a Cost Analysis of Your Home Visiting Program

Section 3: Outcome Costs Example

By following the examples in this section you will learn the basics of how to approach a cost benefit analysis using your own data and cost information.

What can you do with the outcome data you have?

This part of the tool explains how to go about calculating outcome costs, and includes 3 examples of outcome data and associated cost information. However, the tool does not calculate costs for all outcomes that may be of interest to you and your program. Doing so would be too complex for this instructional tool, and requires a skilled cost analyst. However, by following the examples given you will learn the basics of how to approach a cost benefit analysis using your own time periods, data, and cost information. You can also use the tool to estimate hypothetical cost-savings for your program (if you have collected program costs) for selected outcomes.

The type of outcome data that you have and whether or not you have a comparison group (i.e., a group of families for whom you have outcome data but who have not received program services) dictates the type of cost analysis that you will be able to do. Some outcome costs can be estimated, using what are known as "proxies." Proxies are research-based estimates that can be used if actual cost information is not available. For the 3 examples, you may use your own local cost information, or you may enter the cost proxies provided.

In addition, the more outcome data you have, and the stronger your research design (e.g., whether participants were randomly assigned to the program or control group; whether you have data at intake and at follow up data points, etc.) the better the quality of your cost benefit analysis. Similarly, if you have outcome data but don't have accurate data on program costs, the validity of your cost-benefit analysis will be questionable. For this reason always start with a program cost analysis (see Calculating Program Costs section).

Types of Outcome Data You Might Have

Below we describe several outcome data collection points that you might have available (or plan to collect) that may be useful for a cost benefit analysis. The more actual outcome data you have and the longer the outcome time period, the better the quality of your cost benefit analysis. "Outcome" data refers to any data that you have that measure an aspect of participants' behavior, status, knowledge or attitudes that you expect to change as a result of your program (e.g., parent education status, whether a child was a victim of maltreatment, use of emergency rooms, etc.).  Please indicate below the kinds of outcome data that you currently have or plan to use. Then click on the “assess readiness” to get more information about the kind of cost analysis you might be able to conduct.

Type of Outcome Data

Check if available

1.   Baseline data: Data collected about program participants at intake/enrollment or within a short time after the start of services?

2.   Follow up data: Outcomes collected about program participants at some regular follow up interval (e.g., every 6 months after intake, at children’s birthdates, at the time of program exit, or after participants leave the program)?

3.   Comparison data: Outcomes collected on a control or comparison group?