Health has complex but pervasive linkages to individual wellbeing and to the viability of communities across the life cycle. After many decades of medical innovation, powerful knowledge resources are available to further transform population health.


About the program

The main goals of this program are:

  • To develop and apply better methods for assessing the full economic and social benefits of large-scale programs of health interventions both in individual countries and across groups of countries.
  • To work with major partners to apply these methods to measure the returns on investment in such interventions.


Our partners in this work include the following organisations:

  • World Health Organisation (WHO)
  • United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
  • United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
  • US Chamber of Commerce
  • APEC Life Sciences Health Innovation Forum (LSIF)
  • APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC)
  • China National Health Development Research Center

Key researchers

Prof. Bruce Rasmussen, Director VISES
Prof. Peter Sheehan, Research Director, VISES
Dr Kim Sweeny, Principal Projects Officer, VISES

Investment analysis: life stage & disease areas

We have developed a set of international assessment tools in health and education, which enable us to estimate the economic and social impact of health and education interventions. At their core are two international health and education costing tools that we have used to estimate health and education intervention costs and outcomes. Other models have been developed to estimate the economic and social monetary value of the benefits of the intervention outcomes. The resulting benefit-cost ratios have generally demonstrated the significant value for developing countries investing in health and education.

International studies commissioned by the WHO, the UN Population Fund, UNICEF and the US Chamber of Commerce have applied the quantitative assessment tools to a range of health and education programs, including life stage analyses of child and maternal health and adolescent well-being, and particular disease areas including mental health and cardiovascular disease.

These multi-country studies have led to single country studies for the UN Population Fund for India and UNICEF for Burundi and Syria, to develop a case for national investment in adolescent health, education and wellbeing. A prior study on investment in adolescents in India was finalised in 2019 for the UNFPA.

Other new projects in disease areas are an investment case study on HPV vaccination in Viet Nam for the UNFPA Viet Nam and an investment case for eye health including valuing returns across different stages of the life course for the Fred Hollows Foundation for Kenya, Laso and Pakistan initially. 

Life stage: Maternal & child health

Nguyen, T., Sweeny, K., et al. 2019, ‘Protocol for an economic evaluation alongside a cluster randomised controlled trial: Cost-effectiveness of Learning Clubs, a multicomponent intervention to improve women's health and infant's health and development in Vietnam’, BMJ Open, 9(12).

Stenberg, K., Sweeny, K., Axelson, H. and Sheehan, P. 2017, ‘Investing in the continuum of care for RMNCH’, in D. Jamison, et al. (eds), Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries (DCP3), 3rd edn, Volume 2, The Continuum of Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, chap. 15.

Stenberg, K., Axelson, H., Sheehan, P., Anderson, I., Gülmezoglu, A.M., Temmerman, M., Mason, E., Friedman, H.S., Bhutta, Z.A., Lawn, J.E., Sweeny, K., Tulloch, J., Hansen, P., Chopra, M., Gupta, A., Vogel, J.P., Ostergren, M., Rasmussen, B., Levin, C., Boyle, C., Kuruvilla, S., Koblinsky, M., Walker, N., de Francisco, A., Novcic, N., Presern, C., Jamison, D. and Bustreo, F. 2014, ‘Advancing social and economic development by investing in women's and children's health: A new global investment framework’, Lancet, 383, 1333–1354.

Life stage: Adolescent health & wellbeing

Sweeny, K., Friedman, H.S., Sheehan, P., Fridman, M. and Shi, H. 2019, ‘A health-system based investment case for adolescent health’, Journal of Adolescent Health, 65, S8-S15.

Sheehan, P. and Shi, H. 2019, ‘Employment and productivity benefits of enhanced educational outcomes: A preliminary modelling approach’, Journal of Adolescent Health, 65, S44-S51.

Symons, J., Howard, E., Sweeny, K., Kumnick, M. and Sheehan, P. 2019, ‘Reduced road traffic injuries for young people: A preliminary investment analysis’, Journal of Adolescent Health, 65, S34-S43.

Patton, G.C., Olsson, C.A., Skirbekk, V., Saffery, R., Wlodek, M.E., Azzopardi, P.S., Stonawski, M., Rasmussen, B., Spry, E., Francis, K., Bhutta, Z.A., Kassebaum, N.J., Mokdad, A.H., Murray, C.J.L., Prentice, A.M., Reavley, N., Sheehan, P., Sweeny, K., Viner, R.M., Sawyer, S.M. 2018, ‘Adolescence and the next generation’, Nature, vol. 554, pp. 458-467,

Sheehan, P., Sweeny, K., Rasmussen, B., Wils, A., Friedman, H.S., Mahon, J., Patton, G.C., Sawyer, S.M., Howard, E., Symons, J., Stenberg, K., Chalasani, S., Maharaj, N., Reavley, N., Shi, H., Fridman, M., Welsh, A., Nsofor, E. and Laski, L. 2017, ‘Building the foundations for sustainable development: A case for global investment in the capabilities of adolescents’, Lancet, 390, 1792-1806.

Disease areas: Non-communicable diseases

Bertram, M.Y., Sweeny, K., Lauer, J.A., Chisholm, D., Sheehan, P., Rasmussen, B., et al. 2018, ‘Investing in non-communicable diseases: An estimation of the return on investment for prevention and treatment services’, Lancet, 391, 2071–2078.

Disease areas: Mental health

Chisholm, D., Sweeny, K., Sheehan, P., Rasmussen, B., et al. 2016, ‘Scaling-up treatment of depression and anxiety: A global return on investment analysis’, Lancet Psychiatry, 3, 415-424.

Sweeny, K. and Shi, H. 2016, ‘The Economic Cost of Serious Mental Illness and Comorbidities in Australia and New Zealand’, Report prepared for The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, VISES, Victoria University, Melbourne, at

Productivity & health

For a series of country studies for the for the US Chamber of Commerce, we used a rate of return methodology to estimate the costs and benefits to investing in health interventions to improve the health outcomes for the working age population. This focussed on cardiovascular disease, diabetes and mental illness. It follows earlier work for the Chamber, the APEC Life Sciences Innovation Forum (LSIF) and the APEC Business Advisory Committee on the economic cost of ill health. A current multi-country study covers about 30 countries.

The Life Sciences Innovation Forum (LSIF) was established by APEC Leaders in 2002 as a tri-partite forum (government, industry, and academia) to develop and implement a strategic plan for life sciences innovation in the region that would address health challenges. Peter Sheehan was elected Co-Chair (Academic) of the LSIF. In August 2017, Peter Sheehan resigned from the role and Bruce Rasmussen was elected Co-Chair (Academic).

Bruce Rasmussen is currently working with the LSIF executive board to establish a dialogue in innovative health financing mechanisms with APEC senior finance officials and their Finance Ministers.

Rasmussen, B., Sweeny, K., Maharaj, N. and Welsh, A. 2018, Our Health Our Wealth: The Impact of Ill Health on Retirement Savings in Australian, Report to The McKell Institute, VISES, Melbourne, August, at

Rasmussen, B., Sweeny, K. and Sheehan, P. 2016, Health and the Economy: The Impact of Wellness on Workforce Productivity in Global Markets, Report to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Initiative on Health and Economy, Washington, DC, April, 28 pp.

Rasmussen, B., Sweeny, K. and Sheehan, P. 2015, Cost of Early Retirement Due to Ill Health, Report to the APEC Business Advisory Council and US Chamber of Commerce, VISES, Melbourne, July. Rasmussen, B., Sweeny, K. and Sheehan, P. 2015, Cost of Early Retirement Due to Ill Health: Phase II Countries, Report to the APEC Business Advisory Council and US Chamber of Commerce, VISES, Melbourne, October.

Rasmussen, B., Sweeny, K. and Sheehan, P. 2015, Economic Costs of Absenteeism, Presenteeism and Early Retirement Due to Ill Health: A Focus on Brazil, Report to the Brazil-U.S. Business Council, the US Chamber of Commerce and the APEC Business Advisory Council, VISES, Victoria University, Melbourne. Sweeny, K., Rasmussen, B. and Sheehan, P. 2015, The Impact of Health on Worker Attendance and Productivity in Twelve Countries, Report to the APEC Business Advisory Council and US Chamber of Commerce, VISES, Victoria University, Melbourne, October.

Role of women

The study of adolescent wellbeing included work for the UN Population Fund on the economic impact of child marriage, some of which has been published in the Journal of Adolescent Health (Rasmussen et al. 2019). The UN Population Fund commissioned an estimate the cost of ‘eliminating’ child marriage by 2030 in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals. The project involved a range of issues for women in developing countries. We worked in collaboration with John Hopkins University, University of Washington and Avenir Health, and presented our results at the International Conference on Population and Development in Nairobi, hosted by the UN, Kenyan and Danish governments in November 2019 (Rasmussen, Symons and Majaraj 2020).

A study of adolescent wellbeing which included an analysis of the economic impact of the intergenerational effects of early marriage on their children’s education was published in Nature (Patton et al. 2018). A paper is in preparation for journal submission from the UNPFA India project on evaluating interventions to reduce child marriage.

Rasmussen, B., Maharaj, N. et al. 2020, ‘Evaluating interventions to reduce child marriage in India’, UNFPA India project paper, VISES, Victoria University, Melbourne.

Rasmussen, B., Symons, J. and Maharaj, N. 2020, ‘Cost of ending child marriage’, in Johns Hopkins University, Avenir Health, Victoria University, Institute of Health, Metrics and Evaluation and UNFPA, Costing the Three Transformative Results, UNFPA, New York, chap. 4, at

Rasmussen, B., Maharaj, N., Sheehan, P. and Friedman, H. 2019, ‘Evaluating the employment benefits of education and targeted interventions to reduce child marriage’, Journal of Adolescent Health, 65, no. 1, S16-S24.