Meeting round-up: Essen Economics of Mental Health Workshop

The Essen Economics of Mental Health Workshop took place in Essen, Germany on 25th and 26th June 2018 organized by Ansgar Wübker and Christoph Kronenberg.

A heterogeneous group of fourteen attendees participated in the workshop, from PhD students to Emeritus Professor, from the UK to Switzerland all interested in the economics of mental health.

After a welcoming of the two hosts, Jan Böhnke started with the first Keynote. He focused on the classification of diagnoses and measurement of mental health in general and contrasted it with other concepts such as well-being and happiness. Since Jan’s background is in psychology and epidemiology, the change of perspective was very helpful for economists and created more awareness of adopting existing labels, measures or scores.

Rowena Jacobs held the second keynote in the afternoon. She talked about the organization and funding of mental health services. She pointed out a problem that is linked to mental illness is the stigma the patients are often confronted with. Fear of stigma and subsequently being socially excluded may lead to a treatment gap of affected people who do not seek help.

In between the keynote sessions and during the next day we concentrated on the work of the participants. Different to most conferences and workshops paper presentations were held by the discussants not the authors of the papers. Each discussant had 30 minutes to present and discuss the paper. Afterwards, the author had some minutes to clarify or respond before everyone could ask questions and participate in the discussion. The papers were shared among all participants before the workshop to allow everyone to contribute to the discussion.

Peter Zweifel presented the work of Sanne Kruse-Becher and her colleagues. They are analysing how migrants’ mental health is affected by conflicts in their home countries. A current and interesting topic. Sarah Hofmann was the discussant of the paper by Ingo Kolodziej and his co-authors. They are interested in the effect of the double burden of long-term care and work on the mental health of a caregiver. In a society with an ageing population, this is a topic with huge relevance. These two presentations show how different the research areas for the economics of mental health can be.

In the evening of the first day, we took a walk through the city and visited a nice restaurant. They served delicious Turkish food. It was nice to have some time to get to know each other.

I really enjoyed those two days. It was a successful workshop with a nice new format, which – in my opinion – leads to detailed comments and discussions.

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Meeting round-up: CINCH Academy 2018

On 18-23 June, researchers, coming from Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, were gathered together at the annual CINCH summer school, an academic program for early stage researchers in health economics. The fifth CINCH Academy was held in Essen, Germany, by one of Germany’s leading health economics centres – CINCH. The institute brings together the region’s most notable health economics institutions: RWI – Leibniz Institute for Economic Research, the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration at the University of Duisburg-Essen, and the Institute for Competition Economics (DICE) at the Heinrich-Heine-University in Düsseldorf.

This year the focus of the Academy was hospital economics and mental health. On the first days of the event, Luigi Siciliani (University of York) gave a very informative block of lectures on hospital competition as well as currently often-debated quality of health care, waiting times and patient’s choice. To strengthen the learning process, after each topic, participants were requested to answer a set of questions and engaged in discussions that helped to better understand the lecture materials. After a productive first block of lectures, Richard G. Frank (Harvard University) provided a comprehensive insight into the economics of mental health and emphasized the distinguishing marks of topics in mental health such as salient features of mental illness, the role of government, mental health illness protection and mental health policy. Encouraged by the lecturer and with a high interest, each participant took part in the discussion and shared their knowledge about specific situations and handlings in their home countries.

In addition to the educational material, each participant had an opportunity to present his or her current research topic and be discussed by another participant. The large range of topics, such as the influence of crime on residents’ mental wellbeing, the influence of unpaid care on formal care utilization and the impact of increased hospital expenditures on population mortality, created a very interactive atmosphere for discussions. Senior researcher Daniel Howdon (University of Leeds) chaired the paper session and gave additional helpful comments for each presenter.

Apart from an interesting academic program, the summer school further fostered an interaction between participants in several social activities organized by the CINCH team. Besides several dinners after intensive days, participants had a chance to participate in a specially organized city tour in Essen and visit the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex (Zeche Zollverein) that is inscribed into the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. The large industrial monument is often named as the cultural heart of the Ruhr Area. After a guided tour through the complex, all participants once again gathered to have a dinner at a traditional restaurant of this region. Social activities not only allowed to further discuss topics of the lectures but also to share different personal experiences about pursuing a doctoral degree in different countries and about other daily interests for each early-stage researcher such as intensive learning, travelling to conferences, obtaining datasets, etc.

On the last day of the summer school, organizers announced the Best Paper Award, that was awarded to Elizabeth Lemmon (University of Stirling) for her research paper “Utilisation of personal care services in Scotland: the influence of unpaid carers”. Besides the financial reward, her work will be published in the CINCH Working Paper Series.

CINCH Academy was an excellent opportunity to deepen the knowledge and insights in hospital and mental health economics. Our special thanks goes to lecturers, Luigi Siciliani and Richard G. Frank, to paper sessions chair Daniel Howdon, as well as to the great organizational team Christoph Kronenberg and Annika Jäschke.

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Meeting round-up: CINCH Academy 2017

The CINCH Academy took place for the fourth time in Essen, Germany, from August 28th to September 3rd, 2017. We were twelve PhD students participating in the summer school coming not only from Germany but also from the UK, Netherlands, and Russia. On Monday morning, Christoph Kronenberg who organized the CINCH Academy 2017 welcomed us. After some information on the schedule and – most importantly – the social activities planned for the week, Owen O’Donnell started with the first class on health inequality.

Prof O’Donnell held courses during the first half of the summer school. In his lectures, he presented tools to measure inequality in the distribution of health depending on socioeconomic indicators like income or education. With examples in Stata, we were familiarized with the application, advantages, and potential drawbacks of different health inequality indices.

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In the second part of the week, Frank Windmeijer held courses on panel data models. He started with the linear instrumental variables model and successively approached instrumental estimations in linear and dynamic panel models. Needless to mention, the famous Windmeijer correction was included in Frank’s explanations. As in the health inequality courses, we applied our newly gained knowledge immediately to examples in Stata exercises.

Besides productive classes on health inequality and panel models, each participant of the summer school presented their own work. Maksym Obriza chaired the paper presentations, making sure that we stuck to the schedule and providing valuable feedback. Presentations lasted 30 minutes and were followed by 10 minutes for the discussant and 5 minutes for questions from the audience. The presentations covered a broad range of topics, including the interaction of health and labour, the effect of regulatory actions on children’s health, and the impact of hospital environment on physicians’ treatment choices. While most participants analysed datasets for their research projects, I presented a lab experiment.

Of course, we were also able to get to know each other better and to discuss our research more informally during various social activities throughout the week. At the get-together on Monday evening, the group became even bigger when CINCH members Reinhold Schnabel and Daniel Avdic joined for dinner at Leo’s Casa. On Wednesday, the first part of CINCH Academy ended with an excursion to the UNESCO world heritage site Zollverein. The working conditions for workers with low education levels in the coking plant, which were vividly described by our guide, by no doubt led to poor health. We agreed that in this case no tests were needed to convince us of a causality between low education and poor health – a perfect illustration for health inequality. More discussions followed on Thursday during dinner at Ponistra, which is known for its excellent food.

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After a lot of input on health inequality, panel models, and our own research, the summer school ended Sunday noon with the presentation of the Best Paper Award. Juditha Wójcik received the award for her joint work with Sebastian Vollmer on long-term consequences of the 1918 influenza pandemic for which they analysed 117 census datasets.

Although the schedule seemed to be very tough in the beginning, I really enjoyed CINCH Academy. I did not only learn a lot but also got to know a very nice group of junior health economists.

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