STUDY OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the cost effectiveness and equity of a community based cardiovascular disease prevention programme. DESIGN: A prospective cross sectional design. SETTING: A community based intervention to reduce cardiovascular disease in the district of Norsjö (n = 5500), Sweden. The intervention was aimed at both the general population and at individuals thought to be at special risk, the emphasis being on changing dietary habits and reducing cholesterol concentrations. PARTICIPANTS: The participants were men and women aged 30-60 years. MAIN RESULTS: The mean serum cholesterol concentration in the Norsjö population was reduced by nearly 20% during the first six years of intervention. It was estimated that the programme's overall total societal costs were 363,000 pounds and estimates of the cost per year of life saved ranged from 14,900 pounds to net savings, according to different assumptions. Taking only health care costs and savings into account, the cost per year of life saved ranged from 1100 pounds to 4050 pounds. The results varied between different sex and age groups, but not between social classes. Even if a causal relationship exists between low cholesterol concentrations and excess mortality, the estimated side effects of lowering cholesterol values in Norsjö were negligible in comparison with the expected benefits. CONCLUSIONS: The community based intervention in Norsjö seems to be cost effective even under conservative assumptions. The approach used seems to have benefited all social classes. Cost effectiveness analyses that take consequences for equity into account are valuable tools in decision making.
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