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 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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