Describing the economic impact of childhood food allergy in the United States is important to guide public health policies.
To determine the economic impact of childhood food allergy in the United States and caregivers’ willingness to pay for food allergy treatment.
Design, Setting, and Participants
A cross-sectional survey was conducted from November 28, 2011, through January 26, 2012. A representative sample of 1643 US caregivers of a child with a current food allergy were recruited for participation.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Caregivers of children with food allergies were asked to quantify the direct medical, out-of-pocket, lost labor productivity, and related opportunity costs. As an alternative valuation approach, caregivers were asked their willingness to pay for an effective food allergy treatment.
The overall economic cost of food allergy was estimated at $24.8 (95% CI, $20.6-$29.4) billion annually ($4184 per year per child). Direct medical costs were $4.3 (95% CI, $2.8-$6.3) billion annually, including clinician visits, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations. Costs borne by the family totaled $20.5 billion annually, including lost labor productivity, out-of-pocket, and opportunity costs. Lost labor productivity costs totaled $0.77 (95% CI, $0.53-$1.0) billion annually, accounting for caregiver time off work for medical visits. Out-of-pocket costs were $5.5 (95% CI, $4.7-$6.4) billion annually, with 31% stemming from the cost of special foods. Opportunity costs totaled $14.2 (95% CI, $10.5-$18.4) billion annually, relating to a caregiver needing to leave or change jobs. Caregivers reported a willingness to pay of $20.8 billion annually ($3504 per year per child) for food allergy treatment.
Conclusions and Relevance
Childhood food allergy results in significant direct medical costs for the US health care system and even larger costs for families with a food-allergic child.