About Health Decision Science

Decision science is the study of how people make decisions and how they can make better decisions in the presence of uncertainty, complexity and competing values.  As a field, it draws upon economics, psychology, engineering, epidemiology and computer science, among other disciplines. Decision science has been applied to business decisions, military decisions, and – the focus of our Center – decisions affecting public health, including healthcare and the environment. Our Center is concerned with Health Decision Science, which aims to inform policies and practices in health by systematically integrating scientific evidence with explicit consideration of individual and societal values for critical outcomes including mortality, quality of life, and cost. The core methodology is decision analysis, which encompasses analytic approaches such as simulation modeling and cost-effectiveness analysis.

In order to make sound public health decisions, clinical evidence is essential but not sufficient. An array of different types of information from diverse sources must be synthesized to produce the best possible estimates of the health consequences and economic costs of different health interventions and programs. Decisions must be made about how to allocate limited resources, in light of difficult tradeoffs between attention to quality of life and longevity, as well as ethical concerns, for example regarding the distribution of benefits and harms across population groups such as the young, the old, the disabled, and the disadvantaged.