16 March 2009

Social and health policy articles

Economic Roundup, Issue 1 2009
The Treasury: 7 March, 2009

Why health matters for economic performance
Joann Wilkie and Adam Young / Treasury
Health is a key component of individual and social wellbeing. Furthermore, the health of a population is a key driver of labour and capital investment and consequent economic growth. Good health can lead to higher gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in the long run due to its impact on population; participation; and productivity. Health outcomes are primarily determined by bio medical, lifestyle and socio economic factors, but there is evidence that the level of health care resources also affects health outcomes. The efficiency with which health care resources are used will determine the extent to which health outcomes are enhanced. This article analyses health and its contribution to economic growth and provides a broad framework for the consideration of health care policies. > read article

What evidence should social policymakers use?
Andrew Leigh / Treasury
Policymakers seeking empirical evidence on social policy interventions often find themselves confronted with a mountain of academic studies that are potentially relevant to the question. Without some systematic way to sort through the evidence, there is a risk that analysts will become mired in the research, or simply cherry-pick those studies that support their prior beliefs. An alternative approach is to test each study against a hierarchy of research methods. This article from Economic Roundup Issue 1, 2009 discusses two hierarchies — one used by US medical researchers, and another used by UK social policymakers — and suggests one possible hierarchy for Australia. Naturally, such a hierarchy should not be the only tool used to assess research, and should be used in conjunction with other factors, such as the ranking of the journal in which a study is published. But used carefully, a hierarchy can help policymakers sort through a daunting body of research, and may also inform governments’ decisions on how to evaluate social policy interventions.> read article

Using evidence well
Joann Wilkie and Angelia Grant / Treasury
We all rely on evidence. All decisions are based on past experiences, theories and expectations. In a policymaking context, the use of evidence can be challenging: in some cases there may be a plethora of evidence, in others a dearth; evidence may be ambiguous, sometimes partly contradictory, or not directly applicable to the policy under consideration; and there may be time constraints that restrict the gathering of evidence. Using evidence well requires an understanding of how it is produced and used in the policymaking process. > read article

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