While policy makers argue for a greater share of health resources to go to health promotion, action is stalled by, among other things, the perception that little is known about which interventions offer the best health returns. Additionally, what is missing is any sense of what the economic literature in health promotion looks like overall. Where is the economic evidence plentiful and where is it scant? The project described here compiled a census of economic evaluations in health promotion. Studies were classified according to a four-part typology that documented the strategic intent of the intervention, the risk factor being addressed, the population most affected and the setting in which the intervention took place. Since 1990, there have been over 400 economic evaluations of health-promoting interventions in the peer review and grey literatures. Of these, 90% address biological or behavioral determinants of health. Relatively little is known about the economics of population health advocacy or interventions to tackle the social and economic determinants of health. Initiatives are in place to increase the availability of economic evidence. Research is also needed into how to support decision makers' use of imperfect, incomplete and uncertain information.