The WHO is testing a new rationalised programme of antenatal care in a multicentre randomised trial. The motivation for this trial arose from the current uncertainty about the effectiveness of different approaches to provision of routine antenatal care. Decision makers also lack information about the costs of providing routine antenatal care and the cost-effectiveness of one programme over another. Such information will be needed before the final choice of programme can be made. The WHO trial provides an ideal opportunity to estimate and compare the incremental costs and cost-effectiveness of the new programme in four countries Argentina, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Thailand). A separate economic component has been organised to measure the costs of antenatal care. Methods for cost identification and measurement, and methods for economic analysis in the context of an international study are based on current recommendations for the conduct of economic evaluations alongside trials. However, several aspects require further development. In particular, this includes defining standard methods for costing in different countries; measuring the costs of access to care for women; and making comparisons across international settings. The economic evaluation will also inform similar multicentre international trials and investigate issues of generalisability beyond trial settings.
Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology (1998) 12 (suppl 2) 75-97 [10.1046/j.1365-3016.1998.00008.x]