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Question - Making iHEA more relevant for its non-academic members
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11/8/2017 at 6:41:28 AM GMT
Posts: 3
Question - Making iHEA more relevant for its non-academic members

Hi Presidential Candidates!


Thank you all for standing first of all.  So a question to get you started which has troubled me somewhat throughout my membership of HEA  over many years, and which I have also posted for the aspiring Directors.  iHEA's mission is to: 

  1. Increase communication among health economists;
  2. Foster a higher standard of debate in the application of economics to health and health care systems; and
  3. Assist young researchers at the start of their careers

Only objective 3 is exclusively (and perfectly reasonably) about academic health economists.  Yet my experience as a long-standing member who has worked for government over most of my career (and membership) is that iHEA is overwhelmingly just an academic society which struggles to offer much to us minority members out in the policy world beyond the opportunity to join our academic colleagues at conferences.   Indeed, I was once advised by a former office holder (who shall remain nameless) that I could not stand for office as I was not a "senior scholar".

So here's my question:

How would you, if elected, go about making iHEA more relevant to its non-academic members, as a means of delivering more effectively on objectives 1 and 2 of its mission?

Look forward to hearing from you!


11/10/2017 at 10:37:19 AM GMT
Posts: -3
Hello Martin,

Thanks for the question. I’m not sure who told you not to stand, perhaps that was a little while ago, you would be encouraged to participate now I'm sure. iHEA is in the process of really changing and becoming a true international organisation, with members contributing at all levels in all ways. The new Executive Director Di McIntyre is working hard to ensure this along with the Board. Non academic members are integral to this - the current President works for the World Bank not a University, and I think, given the importance of the relationship between research and knowledge exchange and translation into practice, your questions pertains to the third part of the mission as well.

iHEA needs to have a number of core functions, offering forums and support for: academic excellence; education excellence; and for supporting development of leadership and knowledge exchange in health economics. Non academic health economists are key to these areas, and encouraging health economists more involved in policy and service delivery to be part of iHEA, on its committees, coming to conferences, and to new types of forums is critical.

Lots of members are not academics, and this is great, but how can iHEA build upon this great resource for everyones benefit? I think one important factor is the i in iHEA. Where is more interaction and support needed, and unavailable? What do health economists outside academia in low and middle income countries really need and want? How can iHEA help? One way forward may be to find out, iHEA needs to step out of its traditional heartlands (where it is successful and works well) and see who needs support to build health economics in areas beyond academia, and beyond developed countries.

So, this would be one of the first things I would want to do, and I have already started pushing for this on the Board of iHEA, and through my work on the Student Prize Committee. An important finding of the Strategic Review (iHEA 2020) was different communication, and higher quality debate, as well as different support for people who perhaps have none. Perhaps point (3) should be ‘Assist early career health economists’ not just young researchers.

We need to host meetings, perhaps smaller more targeted meetings in places iHEA has never been before, making it clear that interaction between academics and non academics is crucial - meetings need to have sessions which are not just presentations of research, but interaction between academics and others, and sessions led by those in NGOs, Government, the private and public sector. We need to learn from each other, it will benefit everyone. Including the early career health economists, and those who may be working in areas a little isolated at present. More involvement at all levels would benefit everyone.

I hope this helps Martin, thanks again.

Best wishes,

11/10/2017 at 10:37:40 AM GMT
Posts: -3
A moderator has removed this post.
11/20/2017 at 8:04:58 AM GMT
Posts: 2
Dear Martin

Thank you for your question. I am sorry for the delay in response as I have been traveling in China for the past few weeks. As a matter of fact, one major reason for this trip is to organize a one day seminar, followed by another day of closed door discussion on how to bring economists and policy researchers and policymakers closer. At least in China, what we observe is that economists pay a lot of attention to methodological rigor but their work do not necessarily answer meaningful or important policy questions. On the other hand, policy researchers do not pay enough attention to rigor, in both theories and methods. My effort here is to integrate the two groups. I am doing something similar in India.

Back to your question, I would like to separate my response into three sets of inter-related issues:

1. Is current health economics research addressing relevant policy questions? Health economics is an applied field, applying economic theories and methods to answer health and health policy questions. As such, the value and merit of health economics research/study should be judged by: 1) whether the research is answering an important policy question; and 2) given (1), whether the research uses the appropriate theory and method. So I do not see these two objectives/criteria as mutually exclusive. Having said that, I agree that a number of health economics publications are strong on methods but weak in asking important and relevant questions.
2. Is current health economics research result being translated into policy? In my personal view, the ultimate goal of health economics research is to generate knowledge that make people’s life better and I do not see how one can do that without bridging the gap between the “generators” and “users” of knowledge. A number of health economists, including myself engage in research that closely involve policymakers and practitioners. For myself, all of my research projects include an advisory committee consisting of policymakers of the country/state who can guide us on relevant policy questions, windows of opportunities for change and institutional and practical constraints. Their involvement also play a significant role in uptake of research findings.
3. Is neo-classical economics adequate in addressing health policy questions? My view is no, so we need to go beyond neo classical economics.

From iHEA’s perspective and role and if I were elected, we should do the following:
1. For the biannual congress,
a. select themes and priority topics that address important present and future policy issues, through broad consultation with members that go beyond the Board
b. revise paper selection criteria to emphasize more on whether the paper addresses important policy question
c. organize/convene sessions that facilitate debate and discussions between researchers and policymakers/practitioners, drawing on the research findings. That is, policymakers/practitioners are not just passive participants in the audience
2. Create mentoring mechanisms to pair up a pool of 1) senior health economists who work closely or directly with policymakers, 2) policymakers themselves, with 3) interested junior researchers on “how to” link health economics research more closely with policy, in both defining research questions and translation of findings
3. Create forum to discuss how new emerging fields of economics that integrates classical economics with other social science disciplines—psychology, political science, organizational behavior, governance, such as institution economics, organizational economics, behavioral economics and political economy can play a more significant role in health economics research that addresses relevant policy questions. This should be organized with the goal to facilitate continuous research collaboration among interested iHEA members.

Thank you and I look forward to working with you and other members.


(posted by moderator on behalf of Winnie who is having internet challenges)

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