Addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic requires an understanding of how risky sexual behaviours change over time. This column observes that, whereas the accuracy of self-reported data depends on the likelihood of people telling the truth, the likelihood of risky behaviours being detected in tests for sexually transmitted infections is equal to the disease transmission rate. Self-reported data may therefore be a more reliable measure of risky behaviours than the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections when the probability of transmission is low.
Lucia Corno, Áureo de Paula, 13 January 2015
Richard Dobbs, Corinne Sawers, 13 December 2014
Obesity has a similar impact on global GDP as smoking, and around 60% of obese people are in developing countries. This column discusses the seriousness of the problem, and argues that more policy action is warranted – particularly in the form of low-risk, low-cost behavioural interventions.
Antonio Cabrales, Juan J. Dolado, Ricardo Mora, 05 December 2014
The negative consequences of dual labour markets have been extensively documented, but so far little attention has been paid to their effects on workers’ on-the-job training and cognitive skills. This column discusses evidence from PIAAC – an exam for adults designed by the OECD in 2013. Temporary contracts are associated with a reduction of 8–16 percentage points in the probability of receiving on-the-job training, and this training gap can explain up to half of the gap in numeracy scores between permanent and temporary workers.
Amir Attaran, Roger Bate, Ginger Zhe Jin, Aparna Mathur, 09 October 2014
There is a perception amongst pharmaceutical experts that some Indian manufacturers and/or their distributors segment the global medicine market into portions that are served by different quality medicines. This column finds that drug quality is poorer among Indian-labelled drugs purchased inside African countries than among those purchased inside India or middle-income countries. Substandard drugs – non-registered in Africa and containing insufficient amounts of the active ingredient – are the biggest driver of this quality difference.
Charles F Manski, 01 October 2014
Clinical practice guidelines recommend treating all patients with similar attributes the same way. This column argues that, under conditions of uncertainty or ambiguity, this may be bad advice. Treating similar patients differently provides two benefits. The first is diversification – assigning similar patients to different treatments limits the consequences of choosing an inappropriate treatment. The second benefit is that randomly assigning treatments helps clinicians learn which ones are most effective.
Sandra E. Black, Paul Devereux, Kjell G. Salvanes, 20 August 2014
Adverse health or nutrition shocks to pregnant women can have significant and often long-lasting effects on the outcomes of their children, but much less is known about the effects of psychological stresses. This column discusses recent research on the effect of stress induced by the death of a parent while pregnant on the short- and long-run outcomes of children in Norway. Maternal bereavement has small but statistically significant adverse effects on birth outcomes – especially for boys – but there is no evidence of any long-run adverse effects.
Brandon Restrepo, Matthias Rieger, 16 July 2014
Artificial trans fat is omnipresent in the global food chain, but the medical consensus is that it increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke. Between 2007 and 2011, New York City and six other county health departments implemented bans on trans fat in restaurants. This column presents the first evaluation of the effect of these bans on cardiovascular disease mortality rates.
Holger Görg, Olivier N. Godart, Aoife Hanley, Christiane Krieger-Boden, 08 July 2014
Many firms are replacing traditional working hours with more flexible arrangements, reflecting new thinking on employee motivation. This column presents evidence from Germany that trust-based working time is associated with increased innovation. However, trust-based working hours also contribute to the blurring of workers’ professional and private lives, and may lead to excessive overtime. Careful design of trust-based working arrangements is required to reap the innovations gains while avoiding the health pitfalls.
Joan Costa-i-Font, Alistair McGuire, Nebibe Varol, 10 May 2014
Generic medicines are cheaper than their branded counterparts, offering potential savings in healthcare budgets. Medicine-price regulation plays an important role in the expansion of the market for generic medicines. This column presents new evidence that higher levels of price regulation, by lowering the expected price to generic manufacturers, lead (ceteris paribus) to greater delays in generic entry.
Angus Deaton, 20 March 2014
The world has become healthier and wealthier since 1960, as measured by life expectancy and GDP per capita. In this column Angus Deaton introduces his new book and argues that the world is indeed a better place than it used to be, albeit with big setbacks, and that progress opens up vast inequalities.
Joan Costa-i-Font, Alistair McGuire, Victoria Serra-Sastre, 19 January 2013
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.
Marty Gaynor, Carol Propper, Stephan Seiler, 13 January 2013
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.
Janet Currie, Tom Vogl, 15 November 2012
The global decline in ill health has not been met with greater prosperity. What are we to make of healthier and larger populations undercutting per capita economic progress? This column argues that early-life health changes do, in fact, have a huge effect on economic outcomes over the lifecycle. However, the jury is out on how we can best manage – and measure – the apparent play off between better health, higher populations, and poorer per capita economic outcomes.
Sarah Stewart-Brown, 11 November 2012
Eating fruit and vegetables could be good for your mental health. This column explores the evidence, arguing that better surveys need to be carried out if we are to accurately establish causality. If we can understand how mental health is linked to diet, the benefits to the public – and those who decide public policy – could be huge.
Josep Pijoan-Mas, Víctor Ríos-Rull, 30 September 2012
What explains differences in life expectancy at age 50? This column looks at the effect of wealth, education, and marital status. It finds that by far the most important factor is education, and explores what this might mean for policy.
Andreas Kuhn, Jean-Philippe Wuellrich, Josef Zweimüller, 25 March 2012
While the retirement age in most developed countries is going up, this column looks at what happens when it goes down. In some countries, those who work in physically demanding jobs are demanding the right to retire earlier. This column finds that people should be careful what they wish for.
Lance Lochner, 17 October 2011
Given recent budget problems around the world, many governments have proposed sharp cuts to education. What are the likely long-run costs of these cuts? This column reviews a growing body of studies and concludes that crime rates are likely to increase, health and mortality are likely to deteriorate, and political and social institutions may suffer.
Martin Kocher, 06 May 2011
Is young people’s economic behaviour different from that of adults? Martin Kocher of the University of Munich talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his experimental research with children and adolescents aged 8 to 18 – and the implications for policy debates around smoking, drinking, drugs, obesity and other health and education issues. The interview was recorded at the annual congress of the European Economic Association in Glasgow in August 2010. [Also read the transcript.]
Jeremy D Goldhaber-Fiebert, Alan M Garber, 22 February 2011
Obesity – and its related illnesses – endangers the lives of millions across the world. While healthier, more physically active lifestyles can mitigate this, the question remains of how policymakers can get people to switch from being couch potatoes to keen runner beans. This column presents new evidence suggesting that for many even a nudge may suffice.
Nicholas Bloom, Rebecca Homkes, Raffaella Sadun, John Van Reenen, 17 December 2010
Governments globally face a healthcare bill of around $7 trillion – and set to rise. This column argues that the need to focus on productivity has never been greater. With data from 1,200 hospitals across seven of the world’s wealthiest countries, it suggests that improvements in hospital management practices can help bring about improvements in hospital productivity as well.