Activity-based costing for HIV, primary care and nutrition services in low- and middle-income countries: A systematic literature review and synthesis


BACKGROUND: This study is a systematic literature review of HIV, nutrition, and primary care activity-based costing (ABC) studies conducted in low- and middle-income countries. ABC studies are critical for understanding the quantities and unit costs of the activities and resources for specific cost functions. The results of ABC studies enable governments, funders, and policymakers to utilize costing results to make efficient, cost-effective decisions on how to allocate scarce resources. METHODS: We followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) methodology for systematic literature reviews. Key search terms included: (1) activity-based costing and time-driven activity-based costing, (2) cost of services, (3) HIV interventions OR (4) primary health care. Terms were searched within article titles and abstracts in PubMed, EconLit, and Scopus. RESULTS: 1,884 abstracts were screened and reduced to 57 articles using exclusion criteria. After a full text review, 16 articles were included in the final data synthesis. Findings were used to classify costs into relevant and common inputs for activity-based costing. All costs were converted to unit cost (cost per patient) and inflated to January 2020 USD. The largest unit cost across nutrition services was training (US$194.16 per patient, 34.6% of total unit cost). The largest unit cost for HIV was antiretroviral therapy (ART) (US$125.41, 71.0%). The largest unit cost for primary care services was human resources (US$84.78, 62.5%). Overall costs per patient for HIV services were US$176.71, US$135.67 for primary care services, and US$561.68 for nutrition services. The costing results presented suggest that spending on HIV exceeds the actual cost of HIV services. CONCLUSIONS: This is the first systematic literature review to summarize the costs of HIV, primary care, and nutrition services across activity-based costing studies. While there was a wide variation in the study designs and economic methods, many of the input cost categories were similar. With the increasing number of costing studies in countries around the world, understanding trends in costs by function and service can lead to greater efficiency in the implementation of HIV, primary care, and nutrition programs.


Bowser D, Sombrio A, Coulibaly N, Mark N




  • Epidemiology and Determinants of Health
    • Determinants of Health
  • Determinants of Health
    • Food security
    • Health services
  • Population(s)
    • General HIV+ population
  • Health Systems
    • Financial arrangements


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