A New Axiomatic Approach to the Evaluation of Population Health

Jens Leth Hougaard, Juan D. Moreno-Ternero, Lars Peter Østerdal

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In this paper we explore the implications of normative principles for the evaluation of population health. We formalize those principles as axioms for social preferences over distributions of health for a given population. We single out several focal population health evaluation functions, which represent social preferences, as a result of combinations of those axioms. Our results provide new rationale for popular theories in health economics, such as the unweighted aggregation of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) or healthy years equivalents (HYEs) and generalizations of the two, aimed to capture concerns for distributive justice, without resorting to controversial assumptions on individual preferences.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Health Economics
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)515–523
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Population health
  • Social preferences
  • QALYs
  • HYEs
  • Axioms

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