Chris Sampson’s journal round-up for 30th November 2020

Every Monday our authors provide a round-up of the latest peer-reviewed journal publications. We cover all issues of major health economics journals as well as some other notable releases. If you’d like to write one of our weekly journal round-ups, get in touch.

Journal of Health Economics

Volume 74

Everyone is thinking about vaccination. A study in the December issue of JHE looks at the spillover effects of the flu jab in the Netherlands. The researchers found that the programme, involving a free jab for over-65s, had positive and negative spillovers. Adults under 65 in the same household were more likely to go out and get vaccinated themselves, while co-habiting children were actually less likely to get the jab. The authors reckon this is to do with the salience and transmission of relevant information about the level of risk.

American economists have given a lot of attention to ‘deaths of despair‘ in recent years, but relatively few studies have looked at the impact of labour market policies. A study in this issue does just that, focusing on minimum wage and earned income tax credits. Using a difference-in-difference model based on variation between states, the authors found an association with non-drug-related suicide, suggesting that increasing both policies by 10% could prevent 700 suicides.

An ambitious study attempts to estimate the health impacts of the green revolution. The researchers used data for 600,000 children across 37 countries alongside estimates of modern crop variety diffusion, finding that their diffusion was associated with significant reductions in infant mortality. On a very different kind of ‘green revolution’, another study in this issue looks at cannabis liberalisation in Italy. The researchers found evidence that people substitute light cannabis products for a range of prescription medications for mental health or pain. Whether or not that’s a good thing is unclear. Finally – and also from Italy – there is a study on the pricing of medical devices, reporting that much of the observed variation in prices can be explained by each buyer’s competence and discretion.


Volume 38, Issue 12

Studies estimating cost-effectiveness thresholds for different countries have been popping up semi-regularly over the past few years, as discussed in a recent blog post. In this issue, we get a cost-effectiveness threshold for China. The authors used variation across 30 regions to estimate the relationship between expenditure and outcomes, using cross-sectional data and an instrumental variable approach to try to pin-down a causal relationship. The resulting estimate is that one DALY averted in 2017 cost about 37,000 yuan (about £4,000), which is 63% of GDP capita. The authors provide the familiar conclusion that thresholds proposed for use in policy are too high.

Earlier in the year, we highlighted research presenting a new version of the SF-6D. The latest issue of PharmacoEconomics opens with a commentary on how the SF-6Dv2 differs from its predecessor, comparing the distribution of responses. Role Limitations and Vitality seem to be the two dimensions where the most significant discrepancies can be observed.

The issue’s ‘Leading Article’ is on the potential role of behavioural economics in health care delivery. Most applications of behavioural economics in health have targeted public health improvement, with the infamous nudge. The authors of this article propose that behavioural economics could be used to promote sustainability, essentially by moving the crosshairs from patients and the public to health care managers and providers. Doctors are as vulnerable to cognitive bias as the rest of us.

The Markov model continues to reign supreme across the applied evaluative studies in this issue, for oral anticoagulants, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes prevention. There’s also a report from the evidence review group working on a recent highly specialised technology appraisal for NICE. And there is yet another article on HTA methods for cell and gene therapies.

Journal of Economic Perspectives

Volume 34, Issue 4

The latest issue of JEP includes a symposium on economics and epidemiology. An economists’ guide to epidemiological models provides a very useful introduction to the uninitiated, covering the SIR model, forecasting, and an account of key COVID research to date, relating it all to ideas familiar to economists. From the other side, there’s a call for collaboration from an epidemiologist. The author discusses the epidemiologist’s approach to research and advising policy and where economists fit in to this in the context of COVID. It might be a frustrating read for any of you who already work closely with epidemiologists, but it is a useful guide to the uninitiated (such as myself).

Elsewhere in the issue is an article on causal inference in welfare analysis, from a couple of economists that are no strangers to health research. The authors describe a framework for policy evaluation built around the identification of a policy’s ‘marginal value of public funds’. This is essentially a cost-effectiveness ratio based on beneficiaries’ willingness to pay. The issue also includes a study on the impact of entering the labour market during a recession, which can have a long-lasting negative consequences in terms of relationships, crime, risky health behaviours, and middle-aged mortality.


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  • Founder of the Academic Health Economists' Blog. Principal Economist at the Office of Health Economics. ORCID: 0000-0001-9470-2369

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