Robinson Teaches “Valuing Life and Health” Course

Lisa Robinson on left standing and speaking, Jim Hammitt on right sitting and staring forward

Deciding how to best invest to promote social welfare is challenging, especially when outcomes – such as increased longevity and improved health – are difficult to value in monetary terms. Economists have created methods that are widely used to estimate these values, but the results are often not well understood. CHDS Deputy Director Lisa A. Robinson addresses these issues in her Harvard professional development course, Benefit-Cost Analysis: Valuing Life and Health, which will be held online September 16 through September 20, 2024.

Benefit-cost analysis is an important component of the policy development process around the world, encouraging systematic evaluation of the impacts of alternative policies and informing related decisions. It is required by many government agencies and organizations globally for major environmental, health, and safety regulations and policies. The challenge in these contexts is to determine how to value improved longevity and health in monetary terms, to ease comparison to costs. This challenge is exacerbated by confusion about the terminology, especially the value per statistical life (VSL) concept and application.

In this course, Robinson addresses the underlying conceptual framework and its advantages. She also covers the empirical methods used to estimate values and the application of the results. The course addresses high-, middle-, and low-income settings. It is designed for practitioners, scholars, policymakers, and other stakeholders who want to increase their understanding of benefit-cost analysis and its application to policies globally. It involves interactive presentations and ample opportunities for discussion, including case studies.

Robinson is joined by three experts with diverse perspectives. Neal Fann (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), will demonstrate the use of these approaches in the air pollution context. Brad Wong (Mettalytics) will illustrate application in lower income settings. Damien Dussaux (OECD) will discuss a suite of best practice stated preference surveys designed to elicit values for selected nonfatal health endpoints across several countries.

The course is offered by the Harvard Chan School Executive and Continuing Professional Education program. For more information and to register, please visit the course website: Benefit-Cost Analysis: Valuing Life and Health.

Learn more: Executive and Continuing Professional Education (ECPE) program
Learn more: Read the publication, Economic Evaluation for Health Priority-Setting: Cost-Effectiveness Analysis and Benefit-Cost Analysis Primer
Learn more: Resource Pack: Introduction to Benefit-Cost Analysis
Learn more: Resource Pack: Valuing Health and Longevity in BCA

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