Marsh, K., Bertranou, E., Suominen, H., & Venkatachalam, M. (2010). An economic evaluation of speech and language therapy. Matrix evidence.
Aim of the paper:
Communication difficulties are widespread in the population and speech and language difficulties are the most common disability among children. Interventions are delivered by Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs). With increasing financial pressures, it is important to understand whether the public resources used for SLT generate more benefits than the costs of therapy. This paper aims to investigate the costs and benefits of SLT for four different groups. And for this summary, we will focus on one of the groups - children with speech and language impairment.
Net benefit: This is when the benefits of doing something are bigger than the costs.
Benefit-cost ratio: A way to present the relationship between the benefits and costs of doing something. Useful for showing the overall value for money.
What they found:
In 2009, approximately 203,000 children aged 6 to 10 years had speech and language impairment.
Providing Enhanced SLT (15 additional hours of therapy over a period of 15 weeks) for 203,000 children costed £136.6 million each year.
They looked at the benefits of giving enhanced SLT to these children. Based on the estimated improvement in academic outcomes, the lifetime earnings of the 203,000 children were estimated to increase by £878.4 million.
Overall, the net benefit gained from enhanced SLT was £741.8 million each year. The benefit-cost ratio was 6.43. This means that for every £1 used for enhanced SLT, £6.43 was gained in terms of lifetime earnings.
What does this mean?
The findings suggest that SLT for treating children with speech and language impairment generates positive net benefits. Aside from lifetime earnings, there may also be other benefits that are not assessed in this paper, for example improved quality of life and mental health. Overall, investing in SLT is appears to be a good use of public resources. The benefits outweigh the costs.
Please note: Unlike other papers we have summarised, this paper is not peer-reviewed. This means that this paper has not been independently assessed by other researchers for quality checking. However, the findings of this paper are important and useful for policy making.
Where can I read this paper?
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