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BACKGROUND: Health economic assessments are used to determine whether the resources needed to generate net benefit from an antenatal or newborn screening programme, driven by multiple benefits and harms, are justifiable. It is not known what benefits and harms have been adopted by economic evaluations assessing these programmes and whether they omit benefits and harms considered important to relevant stakeholders. OBJECTIVES: (1) To identify the benefits and harms adopted by health economic assessments in this area, and to assess how they have been measured and valued; (2) to identify attributes or relevance to stakeholders that ought to be considered in future economic assessments; and (3) to make recommendations about the benefits and harms that should be considered by these studies. DESIGN: Mixed methods combining systematic review and qualitative work. SYSTEMATIC REVIEW METHODS: We searched the published and grey literature from January 2000 to January 2021 using all major electronic databases. Economic evaluations of an antenatal or newborn screening programme in one or more Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries were considered eligible. Reporting quality was assessed using the Consolidated Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards checklist. We identified benefits and harms using an integrative descriptive analysis and constructed a thematic framework. QUALITATIVE METHODS: We conducted a meta-ethnography of the existing literature on newborn screening experiences, a secondary analysis of existing individual interviews related to antenatal or newborn screening or living with screened-for conditions, and a thematic analysis of primary data collected with stakeholders about their experiences with screening. RESULTS: The literature searches identified 52,244 articles and reports, and 336 unique studies were included. Thematic framework resulted in seven themes: (1) diagnosis of screened for condition, (2) life-years and health status adjustments, (3) treatment, (4) long-term costs, (5) overdiagnosis, (6) pregnancy loss and (7) spillover effects on family members. Diagnosis of screened-for condition (115, 47.5%), life-years and health status adjustments (90, 37.2%) and treatment (88, 36.4%) accounted for most of the benefits and harms evaluating antenatal screening. The same themes accounted for most of the benefits and harms included in studies assessing newborn screening. Long-term costs, overdiagnosis and spillover effects tended to be ignored. The wide-reaching family implications of screening were considered important to stakeholders. We observed good overlap between the thematic framework and the qualitative evidence. LIMITATIONS: Dual data extraction within the systematic literature review was not feasible due to the large number of studies included. It was difficult to recruit healthcare professionals in the stakeholder's interviews. CONCLUSIONS: There is no consistency in the selection of benefits and harms used in health economic assessments in this area, suggesting that additional methods guidance is needed. Our proposed thematic framework can be used to guide the development of future health economic assessments evaluating antenatal and newborn screening programmes. STUDY REGISTRATION: This study is registered as PROSPERO CRD42020165236. FUNDING: This award was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme (NIHR award ref: NIHR127489) and is published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 28, No. 25. See the NIHR Funding and Awards website for further award information.

Original publication




Journal article


Health Technol Assess

Publication Date





1 - 180


ANTENATAL, BENEFITS, COST-EFFECTIVENESS ANALYSIS, ECONOMIC EVALUATION, HARMS, NEWBORN, SCREENING PROGRAMME, Humans, Infant, Newborn, Neonatal Screening, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Female, Pregnancy, Qualitative Research, Technology Assessment, Biomedical, Prenatal Diagnosis, Quality-Adjusted Life Years