Health economics

Manuel Hermosilla, Jorge Lemus, 18 March 2018

There has been criticism that the ‘genetic revolution’ heralded by the completion of the Human Genome Project has failed to meet the more optimistic expectations of 15 years ago and that patient outcomes have not materially improved. This column analyses the extent to which basic genetic science has fuelled early-stage drug innovation. The results suggest that alleged ‘slower-than-expected’ progress has been partly caused by the amount of complexity in human biology, which was unexpected prior to the Project’s completion but has been progressively revealed since then.

Julia Cagé, Valeria Rueda, 17 March 2018

HIV prevention in sub-Saharan Africa is often shaped by the influence of Christian churches, tending to focus on abstinence rather than safer sexual behaviour. This column investigates the relationship between historical Christian missionary activities and HIV prevalence today. Regions close to missions in general tend to exhibit higher HIV prevalence, an effect that is driven by Protestant missions. Regions close to missions that specifically invested in health, however, exhibit lower HIV prevalence today.

Olivier Sterck, Max Roser, Mthuli Ncube, Stefan Thewissen, 16 February 2018

Large multilateral organisations like WHO and the UN rely heavily on average income data in determining eligibility for, and the allocation of, development assistance for health. This column tests this paradigm by analysing the determinants of health outcomes for 99 countries. A country’s epidemiological surroundings, poverty gap, and institutional capacity appear to be much better predictors of health outcomes than gross national income. These findings suggest alternative metrics that could be leveraged in allocating development assistance for health.

Osea Giuntella, Matthias Rieger, Lorenzo Rotunno, 02 February 2018

The majority of obese adults are now found in developing countries This column presents new evidence on the effects of trade on obesity in Mexico. The results indicate that across Mexican states, a one standard deviation increase in the unhealthy share of food imports from the US increases the likelihood of individuals being obese by about 5 percentage points. As developing countries around the world open up their food markets to industrialised countries, they may be accelerating their ongoing nutrition transition and imposing high future costs on their health systems.

Pierre Dubois, Rachel Griffith, Martin O'Connell, 29 January 2018

A growing number of jurisdictions have adopted taxes on sugary drinks to help combat excessive sugar consumption. This column simulates the introduction of a volumetric tax on sugary soda in Britain to examine how well targeted such taxes are. The simulated tax leads young people to reduce the amount of sugar they purchase via soda by around 80% more than the average consumer, but is less effective at targeting people with a high-sugar diet.

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