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Health Econ. 2009 Apr;18 Suppl 1:S109-28. doi: 10.1002/hec.1464.

On what diseases and health conditions should new economic research on health and development focus?

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  • 1Population Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


Given the public goods nature of research, economic research on health in developing countries is likely to have the highest returns by focusing, inter alia, on diseases and health conditions that are relatively widespread and costly and that are relatively rapidly growing. This article first summarizes the time patterns in economic research on diseases and health in developing countries for 1990-2005. It then compares those time patterns with the distribution of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) for diseases and health conditions in developing countries estimated for 2005 and for 2030. These comparisons suggest relatively overemphasis on HIV/AIDS and underemphasis on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). This opens the possibility for individuals or organizations initiating, re-evaluating, or increasing their economic research on health and development to make a significant contribution by focusing particularly on the analysis of behaviour and policy choices related to NCDs. Careful consideration must, of course, be given to other demands, but on the basis of these two criteria, potential contributions are likely to be greatest from research with such a focus.

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