Time and again, research correctly finds that people in developed countries don’t exercise enough. But what information are policy efforts to promote physical exercise based on? This column presents new – and more sophisticated – research that disentangles recreational exercise and cumulative exercise – such as physical activity in (or on the way to) the workplace. An individual’s total physical activity, and not just their recreational exercise, is the salient input into health production because exercise is typically a very small portion of an individual’s total daily physical activity. The sole focus on recreational exercise may well be misleading.
Are healthy lifestyles purely about people’s personal choices? Can we explain why specific people are fit, non-smokers and risk-averse? This column argues that policymaking can incentivise health behaviour but that monetary incentives are not the only approach. Academics and policymakers should aim to influence social norms and society’s role models when monetary incentives are not enough.
The crisis has shot holes in government budgets devoted to pro-growth public goods. This column argues that health-related public goods support long-term economic growth. Governments may be more inclined to focus on spending related directly to jobs, such as education and welfare-to-work programmes, but health should not be forgotten
Although healthcare innovation can make treatment cheaper, it can also make policy decisions more difficult by introducing new, better but more expensive technologies. This column argues that, unlike other technologies, healthcare technology is intermediated by insurance mechanisms, both private and public. Although health insurance coverage incentivises expenditure on innovation, it does not seem to heighten technology adoption, a challenge to the idea that innovation increases healthcare costs. Indeed, evidence suggests that technology diffusion is limited by other institutional barriers.
Greater choice and competition in healthcare is a popular reform model. This column discusses recent research suggesting that once restrictions on choice in the UK’s NHS were lifted, patients receiving cardiac surgery became more responsive to the quality of their care. This saved lives and gave hospitals a greater incentive to improve quality.
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