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)