Common Tragedies

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Archive for the ‘Public Health’ Category

Extending the Cure

Posted by Evan Herrnstadt on March 9, 2009

Some of our colleagues at RFF who study antibiotic resistance using an economic framework now have an official blog for their project, Extending the Cure.

From ETC research assistant (and blogger) Maya Sequeira:

Extending the Cure recently launched a blog. The project, ETC for short, is housed here at RFF and frames the growing problem of antibiotic resistance as a challenge in managing a shared societal resource. The inaugural report of Extending the Cure provides an objective evaluation of a number of policies to encourage patients, health care providers, and managed care organizations to make better use of existing antibiotics and to give pharmaceutical firms greater incentives to both develop new antibiotics and care about resistance to existing drugs. It sets the stage for continued research in the form of technical papers and policy briefs to prevent the impending health crisis of widespread antibiotic resistance. The blog will cover issues from global health to antibiotic production and prescribing to strategies to address collective action dilemmas more generally.

You should check it out; it presents a good variety of analyses looking at resistance in an economic framework.

For an earlier CT post outlining discussing resistance, see this one by Sarah Darley.

Posted in Blogroll, Drug Resistance, Public Health | Leave a Comment »

Assorted links

Posted by Daniel Hall on April 10, 2008

1. Agricultural Subsidies: Still a Bad Idea. Felix Salmon explains why removing ag subsides and taxing carbon are similar, and why they both make sense. Free Exchange squares the circle with a discussion of biofuels.

2. Who Pays a Tax? Tim Haab’s two-part series is here and here.

3. 6 Cities That Were Caught Shortening Yellow Light Times For Profit. What happens when your city stands to make money off of lawbreaking? Yep, that’s right, they make it harder to avoid breaking the law.

4. Malaria and the politics of disease. Efforts to fight malaria seem to be ramping up quickly. But even if near-term success can be achieved, will many be left worse off in the long run?

5. Congestion pricing works. Evidence from California.

6. Location, location, location. The premium for urban living.

7. The cost of siting transmission lines.  This came up yesterday in the seminar on curbing electricity demand at RFF as one of the key uncertainties in the future of electricity, given the political or economic forces that will bring new types of resources onto the grid in the coming years.  (Video from the event should be up in the next few days.)

Posted in Agriculture, Economics, Electricity, Land Use, Public Health, Random, Transportation | Leave a Comment »

Get me some trans-fat and nicotine, stat!

Posted by Daniel Hall on February 5, 2008

Turns out those 300-pound smokers aren’t the menace to public coffers that you might have feared:

Preventing obesity and smoking can save lives, but it doesn’t save money, researchers reported Monday. It costs more to care for healthy people who live years longer, according to a Dutch study that counters the common perception that preventing obesity would save governments millions of dollars.

“It was a small surprise,” said Pieter van Baal, an economist at the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, who led the study. “But it also makes sense. If you live longer, then you cost the health system more.”

In a paper published online Monday in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal, Dutch researchers found that the health costs of thin and healthy people in adulthood are more expensive than those of either fat people or smokers. …

The researchers found that from age 20 to 56, obese people racked up the most expensive health costs. But because both the smokers and the obese people died sooner than the healthy group, it cost less to treat them in the long run. …

Ultimately, the thin and healthy group cost the most, about $417,000, from age 20 on. The cost of care for obese people was $371,000, and for smokers, about $326,000.

With some economists worried about the impact rising entitlement spending will have on the next generation, sounds like it’s time to follow Tim Harford’s advice and take up smoking. Do it for the kids!

H/T: Kids Prefer Cheese, who notes: “I swear this is not from the Onion.”

Posted in Humor, Public Health | Leave a Comment »

Alex Tabarrok gets shot

Posted by Daniel Hall on November 12, 2007

The flu shot, that is. And so did I. And so should you. Alex explains:

People who have the flu spread the virus so getting a flu shot not only reduces the probability that I will get the flu it reduces the probability that you will get the flu. In the language of economics the flu shot creates an external benefit, a benefit to other people not captured by the person who paid the costs of getting the shot.

Hooray for public goods!

Update:  Lynne Kiesling, in a very smart post about externalities, posits that the private benefits to Alex of vaccination well outweigh his costs.  His decision is thus inframarginal and a public subsidy for his vaccination would be a wealth transfer but not improve behavior.  I would say this illustrates a public good created by families and other tight social networks — they encourage citizens to act selflessly.  I would also say that surely someone out there is on the margin about a vaccination decision, and it would make sense if we could target a subsidy at them.  Off-hand I would guess that this group would include the poor and uninsured — although that might primarily be a problem of access and information — and the young, single, and socially mobile, since they are less likely to have compelling reasons to act selflessly.  And, let’s face it, they are frequently lazy.  I rarely got a flu shot when I was in my early 20s; I knew it was a good idea in theory, but just couldn’t be bothered.

Posted in Public Goods, Public Health | 4 Comments »

Resistance is futile: the new war on drugs

Posted by Sarah Darley on November 8, 2007

In her Oct. 19 post to the Center for Global Development’s Global Health Policy blog, Ruth Levine likens drug resistance to global warming. Dr. Levine has provided not only a useful framework for thinking about the problem of drug resistance but also the push that I needed to craft Common Tragedies’ first public health post (along with some prodding from Daniel Hall).

Dr. Levine notes the following shared characteristics between drug resistance and global warming:

  • Both are a result of profligate overuse of a precious resource (fossil fuels, the ability to kill harmful bugs) without mindfulness about long-term consequences.
  • For both, we’ve created a situation in which the commercial interests are largely lined up against better resource management and mitigation measures. The power of markets and the private sector is not yet marshaled toward making the situation better. The energy sector makes money on oil not conservation; the pharmaceutical industry may see few gains from taking steps to ensure the long-term effectiveness of low-margin, first-line drugs.
  • For both, the government has a crucial role to play in regulation and in providing incentives for better resource management – and in both cases governments have been slow to take on those tasks. Particularly in low-income countries, public officials may also see that actions to mitigate long-term damage have a near-term cost for economic development (if energy conservation is required) and improvements in health conditions (if it’s necessary to slow drug access until stronger systems to ensure adherence are in place).
  • Both can be ameliorated only with a combination of significant behavior changes (by consumers, health care workers, patients) and technological developments (energy-efficient cars, solar power, new diagnostics and drugs).
  • For both, understanding the severity and causes of the problem, and the feasible solutions is only possible if we think about the planet as one world, with global goods – and bads – that call for collective action.

Much of the recent Common Tragedies banter has centered on policy responses to climate change and, in particular, the relative merits of carbon taxes versus cap-and-trade programs. Given the similarities outlined by Dr. Levine, one might ask whether potential policy solutions to drug resistance might mirror some of the policy options on the table for global warming.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Climate Change, Drug Resistance, Public Health | 1 Comment »