Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Health Economics (ECON 227) using technology to study health and income across countries

Dr. Kassens Health Economics class examined the relationship between health and income for six different countries using a data application from the World Bank.

Prior the group project, class discussion addressed two observations:
1) Wealthier countries are healthier
2) Wealthier countries spend more money on health

and a question "Does this mean that countries can buy health?"

Students offered a variety of answers, but collectively answered "not necessarily". They noted that income is related to education, infrastructure, transportation, etc. that determine health. Additionally, behavioral issues, such as smoking and obesity, can offset the impact of income on health status. Finally, we addressed the differences in cross sectional analyses of health vs. changes over time.

In an effort to learn about the obstacles low-income countries face with respect to health compared to higher income nations, six student groups were formed. Each group was assigned a country:

Low Income

Middle Income

High Income

Students were given 20 minutes to produce a report on their assigned country using World Bank data. Their reports needed to address four things:

1) Health outcomes
2) Health resources
3) Health spending
4) Economic indicators

Those students with laptops accessed the data through the following link: http://data.worldbank.org/. Those with smart phones used a World Bank application.

Reports included the following variables:

Health care expenditure per person (current $US)

% children 12-23 months immunized for diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus

% population with access to improved sanitation facilities

Life expectancy at birth

GDP per capita (current $US)

Each group then reported their findings and commented on similarities/differences in their country and a country from the same income group and countries from other income groups.

General comments included:

  1. Higher income countries had better health, access to health facilities and technology, and fewer incidences of infectious diseases and malnutrition
  2. In many ways China was similar to low-income countries with respect to access and expenditures, while Poland was more like the higher income countries
  3. Substantial differences in sanitation, infrastructure, and income exist between low income countries and the other groups
If you are interested in conducting a cross-country analysis you should check out the resources that the World Bank offers, including for your smart phone!

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