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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Are youth mentoring programs good value-for-money? An evaluation of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Melbourne Program

Marjory L Moodie1* and Jane Fisher2

Author Affiliations

1 Health Economics Unit, Public Health Research Evaluation and Policy Cluster, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria 3125, Australia

2 The Key Centre for Women's Health in Society, School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2009, 9:41  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-41

Published: 30 January 2009



The Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) program matches vulnerable young people with a trained, supervised adult volunteer as mentor. The young people are typically seriously disadvantaged, with multiple psychosocial problems.


Threshold analysis was undertaken to determine whether investment in the program was a worthwhile use of limited public funds. The potential cost savings were based on US estimates of life-time costs associated with high-risk youth who drop out-of-school and become adult criminals. The intervention was modelled for children aged 10–14 years residing in Melbourne in 2004.


If the program serviced 2,208 of the most vulnerable young people, it would cost AUD 39.5 M. Assuming 50% were high-risk, the associated costs of their adult criminality would be AUD 3.3 billion. To break even, the program would need to avert high-risk behaviours in only 1.3% (14/1,104) of participants.


This indicative evaluation suggests that the BBBS program represents excellent 'value for money'.