Conference round-up: Health Economists’ Study Group (HESG) Summer 2016

First of all, I have to admit I was part of the organising committee of the Health Economists’ Study Group (HESG) meeting that took place in Gran Canaria from the 21st to 23rd June 2016. My views might therefore be somehow biased by this fact, but I will do my best to be detached and objective.

It was the best HESG meeting ever. OK… maybe we cannot claim it was undoubtedly the best, but at least we can say it was definitely the warmest (in many ways). The meeting was organised by Prof Steve Morris and his team of researchers and assistants from University College London (UCL). It was held in the Canary Islands, Spain and attracted over 90 researchers working mostly in the UK but also in Spain, the Netherlands, France, Canada, the USA and Australia. This is not the first time HESG has travelled abroad but it was the first time in Spain, and particularly the first time in the Canaries, which proved to be a bit more than just a sun holiday hotspot.

Many of you already know the distinctive HESG style, where all papers are pre-circulated and discussed in hour-long sessions using discussants rather than author presentations. Nearly 60 papers were discussed and the range of topics can be broadly categorised into methodological advances in economic evaluation, issues on health outcomes measurement, evaluations of the impact of health policies and analyses of equity, efficiency and quality of health care systems. This meeting particularly provided the opportunity to researchers from Spain who had not attended an HESG meeting before to share their work. For instance, Helena Hernandez, a PhD student from Universitat Pompeu Fabra presented her work on the effect of long-term care benefits on mortality in Catalonia, and Prof Beatriz González López-Valcárcel, from Universidad de las Palmas de Gran Canaria, had her work on the effect of co-payment on drug adherence in Valencia discussed at the meeting.

A variety of hot topics were also covered during the two and a half days of the meeting, including the effects of the last recession on wellbeing, considering survivor costs in economic evaluations, adaption to health states and employment and health care discrimination. The methods employed by the authors of the papers also reflected the current state of the art, with many studies exploiting exogenous changes and seeking right instruments to appropriately measure the impact of health policies, as well as the increasing use of discrete choice experiments to measure preferences and risks attitudes.

The work of the discussants was outstanding in every session and the involvement of the audience in the rooms achieved the study group atmosphere of respect and constructive feedback that characterises all HESG meetings. I personally thank the discussant of my work on estimating a cost-effectiveness threshold for the Spanish NHS, Sam Watson, and all the participants of this session for a very rich and detailed discussion that will have my paper very much improved.

After each long day of discussions there was time for delegates to spend some time under the sun by the pool, showing a healthy work-life balance is possible, although many experienced the red-turning skin syndrome that affect mostly British people in this region (if only there was something that could prevent that… wait!).

The meeting ended on the 23rd June, the day of the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. But don’t blame HESG for the result, delegates were advised on how to register for postal vote on the meeting website.

We hope that people enjoyed this far end of the EU and I will be delighted to welcome you all again in a near future (although a next HESG slot is not free until 2023!).

Delegates by the pool

Photo credit: David Prikryl (CC BY-NC 3.0)

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