What is Cost-effectiveness Analysis?

Legal Definition
Cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) is a form of economic analysis that compares the relative costs and outcomes (effects) of different courses of action. Cost-effectiveness analysis is distinct from cost–benefit analysis, which assigns a monetary value to the measure of effect. Cost-effectiveness analysis is often used in the field of health services, where it may be inappropriate to monetize health effect. Typically the CEA is expressed in terms of a ratio where the denominator is a gain in health from a measure (years of life, premature births averted, sight-years gained) and the numerator is the cost associated with the health gain. The most commonly used outcome measure is quality-adjusted life years (QALY).

Cost-utility analysis is similar to cost-effectiveness analysis. Cost-effectiveness analyses are often visualized on a plane consisting of four-quadrants, the cost represented on the x–axis and the effectiveness on the y– axis. Cost-effectiveness analysis focuses on maximising the average level of an outcome, distributional cost-effectiveness analysis extends the core methods of CEA to incorporate concerns for the distribution of outcomes as well as their average level and make trade-offs between equity and efficiency, these more sophisticated methods are of particular interest when analysing interventions to tackle health inequality.
-- Wikipedia