Economic returns to investment in population health

PhD project (3/4 yr research project leading to independent research at the doctorate level)

Laura Howe, Neil Davies, Hayley Jones, Matt Dickson (Univ. Bath), Frances Rice (Cardiff Univ.), Alisha Davies (Public Health Wales)

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Current austerity policies threaten to bring our NHS and Public Health system to crisis point. This project aims to generate high quality evidence that improving population levels of health will benefit the economy, thus strengthening the argument for investment in health.

Aims & objectives

Observational evidence suggests that many aspects of poor health are associated with lower educational attainment and economic outcomes such as labour market participation. However, these observational studies are likely to be plagued with bias due to confounding by background socioeconomic factors. In this project, we will use cutting edge causal inference methods to assess the causal effects of health on educational attainment and economic outcomes.


You will carry out analysis of existing data from population-based cohort studies including UK Biobank and the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). This analysis will address questions such as:

1. Are associations between health and social and economic outcomes causal?
2. Are there periods of the life course during which health problems are particularly detrimental for economic outcomes?
3. Does parental health causally affect social and economic outcomes in children?

The project offers the opportunity to become skilled in techniques such as Mendelian Randomization, life course analyses and intergenerational analyses. There is also potential to use evidence synthesis approaches such as Multi-Parameter Evidence Synthesis to combine results from our analyses with external sources of evidence in order to gain better estimates of the potential economic return on improvements to population health, and the uncertainty around these estimates.


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Created on Nov. 29, 2017, 3:59 p.m.

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