Ordeal Mechanisms, Information, and the Cost-effectiveness of Strategies to Provide Subsidized Eyeglasses


The cost-effectiveness of policies providing subsidized health goods is often compromised by limited use of the goods provided. Through a randomized trial involving 251 primary schools in western China, we tested two approaches to improve the cost-effectiveness of a program distributing free eyeglasses to myopic children. Relative to delivery of free eyeglasses to schools, we find that providing vouchers redeemable in local optical shops modestly improved the targeting of eyeglasses to those who would use them without reducing effective coverage. Information provided through a health education campaign increased eyeglass use when eyeglasses were delivered to schools, but had no effect when requiring voucher redemption or when families were only given a prescription for eyeglasses to be purchased on the market. Though most expensive, free delivery to schools with a health education campaign was the most socially cost-effective approach tested and increased effective coverage of eyeglasses by 18.5 percentage points after seven months.

Journal of Health Economics