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The Global Health Economy

Understanding Policy Priorities for the 21st Century

This research program studies the emerging technology-driven global health economy in which purely national health policies are often no longer fully effective, nor efficient. The program is supported by the Excellence Strategy of the German National Science Foundation (DFG).

Drawing on an international network of economists and leading medical researchers, including the DFG-funded excellence clusters "Inflammation at Interfaces" and „Precision Medicine,“ we identify salient examples of underinvestment in health that characterize the global health economy and propose solutions, such as improved international coordination in the provision of health-related global public goods and more efficient exploitation of increasing returns to scale in the diffusion and adoption of medical technology, including new medical knowledge generally. These solutions are meant to help implement incentives in the generation and utilization of medical technology that are optimal from a global perspective, taking into account local preferences and values that influence the practice of medical decision making.

Healthcare technologies, such as new drugs and medical devices, are often developed, produced, disseminated and adopted under strongly increasing returns to scale. As globalization increases the scale, it tends to boost innovators’ incentives and can help make more of these technologies accessible to increasing numbers of patients worldwide. Yet many countries still pursue national health policies that aim to limit healthcare spending without proper consideration of the true value of gains in longevity and quality of life that new healthcare technologies can afford. Such policies may include arbitrary price controls or explicit access restrictions.

Our research aims to provide a better understanding of how private and public investments in health can be made more efficient and access barriers to knowledge and new technologies be reduced. Identifying the best policies to square efficiency with equity in access and opportunity will help to turn the global health economy into a potent driving force of economic development, growth and convergence of living standards in the 21st century. European health policy, with its dual emphasis on equity and efficiency, may well become a model for the development of health systems in other parts of the world, especially in Asian countries with a similar preference for social cohesion.

Networking, knowledge transfer and policy advice

Our dissemination strategy comprises policy clinics, aimed at the policy-making community, as well as international workshops and research conferences, aimed at the academic community. These high-level research events include the “ESF-IfW Conferences on The Global Health Economy.” We also present our findings at important third-party events, such as the biannual World Congress on Health Economics of the International Health Economics Association, the World AIDS Conference of the International AIDS Society, the Tokyo Fiscal Forum of the International Monetary Fund and the T20 Summits, a high-level conference series of the research and policy advice network of the G20 countries, Think20.

Our conference series on the global health economy included the DFG-funded international research conference on “NEW TECHNOLOGY AND NATIONAL HEALTH SYSTEMS” in 2005, accompanied by the first European Doctoral Workshop on “Health Economics, Social Medicine and Health Policy,” as well as several much larger ESF-IfW Research Conferences that were organized in a Partnership between the European Science Foundation (ESF), the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, and Schleswig-Holstein’s DFG-funded biomedical research cluster of excellence „Inflammation at Interfaces". See

These large “ESF-IfW Conferences on the Global Health Economy” included:

  • NEW TECHNOLOGY AND MEDICAL DECISION MAKING: NORMATIVE MODELS AND EMPIRICAL PRACTICE chaired by Uwe Siebert (Harvard Medical School and UMIT Department of Public Health, Medical Decision Making and HTA at Hall/Innsbruck, Austria) and Peter Zweifel (Universität Zürich Sozialoekonomisches Institut, Zürich, Switzerland) in 2006, 




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