Calculating disability-adjusted-life-years lost (DALYs) in discrete-time

Cost Effectiveness and Resource Allocation
(Accessed 10 August 2013)

Calculating disability-adjusted-life-years lost (DALYs) in discrete-time
Larson BA Cost Effectiveness and Resource Allocation 2013, 11:18 (8 August 2013)
Open Access

Abstract (provisional)
Disability-adjusted-life-years lost (DALYs) is a common outcome metric for cost-effectiveness analyses, and the equations used for such calculations have been presented previously by Fox-Rushby and Hanson (see, e.g., “Health Policy and Planning 16:326–331, 2001”). While the equations are clear, the logic behind them is opaque at best for a large share of public health practitioners and students. The objective of this paper is to show how to calculate DALYs using a discrete time formulation that is easy to teach to students and public health practitioners, is easy to apply for those with basic discounting skills, and is consistent with the discounting methods typically included on the costing side of cost-effectiveness analysis. A continuous-time adjustment factor is derived that can be used to ensure exact consistency between the continuous and discrete time approaches, but this level of precision is typically unnecessary for cost-effectiveness analyses. To illustrate the approach, both a new, simple example and the same example presented in Fox-Rushby and Hanson are used throughout the paper.