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Cost of community gastroenteritis


  • 1

    c/o National Public Health Partnership, Melbourne.

    Accepted for publication 30 September 2002.

Dr M Hellard, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine Monash Medical School, Alfred Hospital, Commercial Road, Prahran, Victoria 3181, Australia. Email:


Background and Aim: Gastroenteritis is a common illness that causes considerable morbidity in developed countries. Endemic gastroenteritis that is not associated with outbreaks causes the greatest number of cases, but information is limited about the burden of this disease, and the resources required to manage its impact on society. In the present study, we estimated the rate of endemic gastroenteritis, the number of visits to the local doctor, use of medication, and the cost of gastroenteritis in Australia.

Methods: Data from a community-based study of gastroenteritis, a general practice surveillance network, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Health Insurance Commission were used to measure endemic gastroenteritis and other study outcomes. The results were then extrapolated to the Australian Community.

Results: There were an estimated 0.8 cases of gastroenteritis per person per year in Australia. This equated to 15 173 430 cases of gastroenteritis in Australia annually. The age-standardized estimate of the total number of visits to the general practitioner (GP) for gastroenteritis was 1024 214 at a cost of A$26 722 691. The average cost of prescribed medication per visit was A$6.83; the estimated total cost of prescribed medication was A$6995 381. The estimated cost of over-the-counter medication was A$14 587 477. It was estimated that people working full or part-time had 0.13 days-off per person per year because of gastroenteritis, at a cost of A$137 924 170. The estimated total cost of endemic gastroenteritis in Australia was A$342 855 616 of which $75 908 274 was direct medical costs and $266 947 342 was time costs and the costs for time off work to care for a sick family member.

Conclusions: Endemic gastroenteritis is an important illness in both developed and developing countries. Although in developed countries, the majority of individual cases are mild to moderate in their severity; the overall costs are significant. The results highlight the need for ongoing research to identify the main causes of endemic gastroenteritis.