India, as part of its bid to achieve universal health coverage, has expanded government health programs over the last two decades, most notably with the establishment of the National Health Mission and the rollout of public health insurance programs targeting poor households. However, national spending on health remains among the lowest in the world. As the government increasingly takes on the role of purchaser of health care, decisions about the allocation of scarce resources for health will have substantial fiscal and health consequences and must be based on evidence. Additionally, in order to control costs and effectively address the growing chronic disease burden, public programs will need to find ways to integrate curative hospital services with the most cost-effective preventive and primary interventions. Currently, in part because the evidence base on economic evaluations of health interventions in India remains sparse and of low quality, decisions about which health care services to cover are typically made by expert committees rather than through systematic assessments of efficacy and cost-effectiveness.
However, in recent years, the government has taken several steps towards establishing the infrastructure for evidence-based priority setting and resource allocation, including the establishment of a body for Health Technology Assessment in India (HTAIn) within the Department of Health Research to collate and generate evidence on the clinical efficacy and cost-effectiveness of new and existing health technologies and programs. Research evidence on the cost-effectiveness of both preventive and curative health interventions in the Indian context is going to be a critical input to the HTAIn.