Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Mental Health and Economic Policy

One of my main areas of research is the connection between mental health and economics, and the broad significance of this connection for public policy. A recent post includes the main papers I have worked on with colleagues in this area. A recent paper by Knapp and Wong (2020) is a very useful area of the state of the literature in this area. Many colleagues at LSE, including in the CEP and the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science have worked on these topics over a long time period. A very positive recent addition has been the development of a network of researchers in this area in the International Health Economics Association. Details of this below and it is certainly worth exploring for any researcher interested in developing their career in this area. 
What is the Mental Health Economics (MHE) Special Interest Group?

One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives according to the World Health Organisation. At any given time roughly 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill health and disability worldwide. Treatment and care for people with mental health disorders can be complex and expensive, creating challenges around how to allocate scarce resources most efficiently, both in high and low income countries. Beyond health care-related costs, the broader economic costs of mental ill-health are also tremendous, with poor mental health leading to lower productivity, more time away from work, higher (criminal) justice costs, among others. Yet, mental health has received little attention, in particular within the study of economics. The Mental Health Economics Special Interest Group, in line with iHEA’s mission, sets out to connect researchers and encourage discussion and debate to further our collective understanding of all aspects of health economic research on mental health.

Aim & Objectives

The health economic inquiry of mental health and mental health care covers a variety of topics and methodologies including cost of illness, outcomes research, economic evaluation, budget impact analyses, econometric methods, policy analysis and health technology assessment. The aim of the MHE SIG is to build a network of health economists worldwide to further our shared understanding of the above, leading to an expanded body of research on the causes and consequences of poor mental health as well as that of the mental health care system. We propose to do so by providing a broad set of opportunities for SIG members to actively engage and collaborate with others in the field.

The objectives of the SIG are to:

Promote a supportive network of health economists interested in mental health and mental health care in low-, middle- and high-income countries;
Exchange experiences, skills and knowledge, and promote collaboration and research opportunities (such as writing manuscripts, grants); and
Share information on mental health initiatives.

The activities of the SIG will include:

Regular engagement of SIG members through an MHE SIG discussion forum where members can submit news about conferences, special issue calls for journals, and new research within the field.
Networking, that is, getting to know others in the field, through face-to-face meetings at conferences as well as online meetings.
Organizing a set of proposed special sessions on mental health as part the iHEA main congress where SIG members can collaborate on creating the session together.
Organising a pre-congress session specifically for SIGs at the iHEA congress, including the one that will be held in Cape Town in 2021.
Ensuring that both SIG and non-SIG organized sessions on mental health do not take place in parallel to ensure that those with an interest in mental health can attend as many sessions on the topic as they desire.
Promoting ECR development through mentoring and supporting students/trainees and early career researchers through inclusivity in session planning.
Ensuring there is at least one convener who is an ECR at any given time to provide opportunities for the SIG to be steered by directly engaging with ECR needs.
Promoting the engagement of colleagues in low- and middle-income countries through a dedicated LMIC Research and Engagement Convener, whose key responsibly is amplifying LMIC members’ research and interests.
Encouraging collaboration among group members to apply for opportunities as a team outside of iHEA (such as grants and publications).
Connecting members for grant applications where the expressed requirement is geographical diversity.
Creating an expert list where members of the SIG can indicate their research experience in terms of topics, methods, as well as world regions, thus allowing other members to easily access information on colleagues experienced in a research area.

MHE SIG Conveners

Panka Bencsik, Founder and Lead Convener
Hareth Al-Janabi, Convener for Research and Dissemination
John Cullinan, Convener for Special Conference Sessions
Giulia Greco, Convener for LMIC Research and Engagement
Sonja de New (née Kassenboehmer), Convener for Special Conference Sessions
Christoph Kronenberg
Long Le, Convener for ECR Development
Claire de Oliveira, Convener for Special Conference Sessions and for Scientific Networking
Irina Pokhilenko, Convener for Research and Dissemination
Jemimah Ride, Convener for Scientific Networking


Membership is open to all iHEA members (regardless of career stage) who are interested in mental health economics/mental health care. Membership can be requested by logging into the iHEA website, selecting the "groups" section and clicking "request to join" the Mental Health Economics Special Interest Group (MHE SIG). Alternatively, members can join the group by contacting a convener of MHE SIG. Membership of researchers working in middle- and low-income countries is strongly encouraged as well as of trainees and early career researchers.

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