Using economic valuation methods for environment and health assessment

Rapid and participatory economic assessment

Economic analysis may be highly sophisticated, using numerous variables and equations to model an entire economy's performance. However, there are experiments in rapid and participatory economic assessment, at the community and household level, which potentially could support better grass roots environment and health decisions.

In Thailand, farmers have used rapid methods of economic valuation to assess the benefits and costs of adopting more sustainable agricultural practices such as integrated pest management. In Uganda, a rapid participatory approach to valuation of the health benefits expected from sanitation improvements has been piloted in rural villages. A visiting health team worked with local leaders in the context of a lunchtime seminar to perform a rapid assessment, estimating the value of the work-hours that an average household might lose due to sanitation-related intestinal disease, and the cost of treatment and medications. Such approaches have the potential to be useful to local decision makers in situations where highly formalized valuations would be impractical, due to the time and money involved.

"At a local level, people in communities do not think or act in ‘sectoral’ ways. Issues they face in health, agriculture, transport, environment, water, food are seamless and relate one to the other. It is antithetical to their way of living and working to constantly come up against the wall where they are told ‘that is dealt with by the health sector’ or ‘you will have to wait until the agricultural extension office comes to the village’. What we offer to communities needs to reflect their own reality. Hence the need for holistic, integrated approaches and actions."

- WHO officer, Healthy Environments for Children Alliance Secretariat, Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments, Geneva; from the HELI review of environment and health decision-making in a developing country context