Infectious Diseases, Public Policy, and the Marriage of Economics and Epidemiology

Posted: 29 Feb 2008

See all articles by Mark Gersovitz

Mark Gersovitz

Johns Hopkins University - Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Jeffrey S. Hammer

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Abstract

The assumption of rational choice helps in understanding how people respond to infectious diseases. People maximize their well-being by choosing levels of prevention and therapy subject to the constraints they face. Objectives and constraints are numerous, necessitating tradeoffs. For example, this approach predicts how people respond to changes in the risk of infection and to the availability of diagnostic tests. The combination of individual rationality with epidemiological models of infection dynamics predicts whether individual choices about infectious disease prevention and therapies produce the best possible social outcomes. If not, individuals' choices generate rationales for government interventions to influence the levels of preventive and therapeutic activities. Optimal policy usually means accepting endemic infection, but at a level lowered by a coordinated package of interventions. Economics combined with epidemiology provides much qualitative guidance on the design of such packages, including immunization programs.

Suggested Citation

Gersovitz, Mark and Hammer, Jeffrey S., Infectious Diseases, Public Policy, and the Marriage of Economics and Epidemiology. World Bank Research Observer, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 129-157, Fall 2003, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=873724

Mark Gersovitz (Contact Author)

Johns Hopkins University - Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences ( email )

Department of Economics
Baltimore, MD 21218
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Jeffrey S. Hammer

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

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