Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Crossing the divide between health & economics: another winning paper

Lauren Hartel bridges health and economics, as well as scholarship and policymaking, with a prize-winning paper that contributes to the fight against inequitable distribution of health. Lauren was one of four students who received the C. Grove Haines Award for academic excellence at this year's commencement ceremony. Below Lauren discusses the background of her paper, which she wrote for Prof. Stefano Zamagni's course in "Public Sector Economics". A condensed version of her work was published in this year's SAIS Perspectives magazine.

Q: How did you get the idea for the paper?
Hartel: At the time, many of my courses were emphasizing the importance of properly understanding a problem before moving to identifying a corresponding solution. I wanted to apply this to my longtime passion of global health. I felt that although much dialogue has occurred on how to prevent or mitigate health disparities, little exists that evaluates how the existence of these disparities impact the economy in the first place.
Lauren Hartel receiving her award from
 SAIS Europe Director Kenneth Keller and Economics Prof. Filippo Taddei
Q: What was the main point?
Hartel: There needs to be more information about health inequalities to ensure we are tackling them in an efficient manner. This knowledge gap is exacerbated by a divide between academic research and practitioner implementation that shouldn’t (and doesn’t have to) exist. I propose a health inequity index in an attempt to cross this divide and measure the distribution of health burdens across a population in a way that is useful to both scholars and practitioners.

Q: What was the hardest part of your work on the paper?
Hartel: The cross-disciplinary nature of my subject made it impossible for me to ensure that I truly had found a gap in the literature instead of merely not having yet found the literature. Throughout the writing process I would find additional articles that forced me to revise my assessments and rewrite sections of my paper. At some point you have to make a judgment call regarding when to stop reading and start writing.

Q: What tips would you give to incoming students as they prepare to write papers here?
Hartel: Always choose interesting over easy! Picking something you love makes the work much more enjoyable and increases your chances of eventually working in an area related to that subject. The topics you write about will inevitably be the topics you leave SAIS understanding the most comprehensively.

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