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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Estimating the costs of school closure for mitigating an influenza pandemic

Md Z Sadique12*, Elisabeth J Adams1 and William J Edmunds12

Author Affiliations

1 Modelling and Economics Unit, Health Protection Agency, 61 Colindale Avenue, London, NW9 5EQ, UK

2 Economics Department, City University, Northampton Square, London, EC1V 0HB, UK

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:135  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-135

Published: 24 April 2008

Abstract

Background

School closure is a key component of many countries' plans to mitigate the effect of an influenza pandemic. Although a number of studies have suggested that such a policy might reduce the incidence, there are no published studies of the cost of such policies. This study attempts to fill this knowledge gap

Methods

School closure is expected to lead to significant work absenteeism of working parents who are likely to be the main care givers to their dependent children at home. The cost of absenteeism due to school closure is calculated as the paid productivity loss of parental absenteeism during the period of school closure. The cost is estimated from societal perspective using a nationally representative survey.

Results

The results show that overall about 16% of the workforce is likely to be the main caregiver for dependent children and therefore likely to take absenteeism. This rises to 30% in the health and social care sector, as a large proportion of the workforce are women. The estimated costs of school closure are significant, at £0.2 bn – £1.2 bn per week. School closure is likely to significantly exacerbate the pressures on the health system through staff absenteeism.

Conclusion

The estimates of school closure associated absenteeism and the projected cost would be useful for pandemic planning for business continuity, and for cost effectiveness evaluation of different pandemic influenza mitigation strategies.