Contested Histories of an Applied Field: The Case of Health Economics

Contested Histories of an Applied Field: The Case of Health Economics History of Political Economy 36:4 (2004) imagine, is constrained by the debates of which they are aware. A historical perspective, which includes not only what actually happened but also what should have happened, what almost happened, and what most emphatically did not happen, opens all kinds of new possibilities for theoretical innovation. In particular, it makes practitioners aware of parallel developments in other fields and applications, and creates the possibility that solutions emerging elsewhere may be borrowed and applied in this field. Health economics is, for the most part, applied microeconomics. It borrows and adapts tools used elsewhere by other economists. There is, however, one area of health economics that is fundamentally unique. It develops tools used nowhere else in the discipline, to do something that most of us learned in graduate school was unnecessary and probably impossible. It measures the cardinal utility of various health states in order to construct an entity known as a “quality-adjusted life year,” or QALY. QALYs allow economists to balance morbidity and mortality, or length of life and quality of life, on a single scale. They allow the construction of league tables, so that we can measure the cost per QALY generated http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png History of Political Economy Duke University Press

Contested Histories of an Applied Field: The Case of Health Economics

History of Political Economy, Volume 36 (4) – Dec 1, 2004

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2004 by Duke University Press
ISSN
0018-2702
eISSN
1527-1919
DOI
10.1215/00182702-36-4-617
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

History of Political Economy 36:4 (2004) imagine, is constrained by the debates of which they are aware. A historical perspective, which includes not only what actually happened but also what should have happened, what almost happened, and what most emphatically did not happen, opens all kinds of new possibilities for theoretical innovation. In particular, it makes practitioners aware of parallel developments in other fields and applications, and creates the possibility that solutions emerging elsewhere may be borrowed and applied in this field. Health economics is, for the most part, applied microeconomics. It borrows and adapts tools used elsewhere by other economists. There is, however, one area of health economics that is fundamentally unique. It develops tools used nowhere else in the discipline, to do something that most of us learned in graduate school was unnecessary and probably impossible. It measures the cardinal utility of various health states in order to construct an entity known as a “quality-adjusted life year,” or QALY. QALYs allow economists to balance morbidity and mortality, or length of life and quality of life, on a single scale. They allow the construction of league tables, so that we can measure the cost per QALY generated

Journal

History of Political EconomyDuke University Press

Published: Dec 1, 2004

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