In a previous post [scroll down!], I called for the UK [and other countries] to set up new, local centres for Economics and Epidemiology. This is because the economic-epidemiological outlooks are impoverished by the two disciplines – at least at the point of making contact with policy and actual forecasts – are cleaved in two. Epidemiological forecasts have too little economics; macroeconomic forecasts have no epidemiology. The result is public health and economic policymaking that is not on a sure foundation.
The problem can be remedied relatively cheaply. Perhaps £5-10m per 5 year period. In replies to my tweets about the idea, many suggested this thing start as an outgrowth of existing institutions, like the IFS, or NIESR. I think this is a bad idea. The task is important and special enough to demand a singular focus, and a custom-built pool of expertise.
I tweeted out a hypothetical terms of reference. This post recaps on that thread. I would propose that such a centre is asked:
- To reflect on the risk of future pandemics, their macro implications, and the policy trade-offs inherent in policies to mitigate, with a view to understanding optimal prevention and mitigation policy.
- To provide high frequency updates on the progress of an ongoing epidemic, including the macroeconomic implications of the epidemic, and the epidemiological implications of the economic outlook and social distancing measures, public and private.
- To undertake, facilitate and sponsor state of the art research into models of economic epidemiology, with a view to designing and updating tools to undertake [for example] tasks 1 and 2 above.
- As part of 3, to pay particular attention to fostering inter-disciplinary collaboration, knowledge exchange between academic and other economists and epidemiologists.
- As part of 2 and 3 above, reflect and advise on the spatial dimension of the effects of the economy on the epidemic, and vice versa.
- Again as part of 2 and 3 above, reflect and advise on the distributional implications of the health and economic consequences of the epidemic, and policies to mitigate; and how other policies can be used to redress those consequences.
- Understand the microeconomics of the epidemic, in particular the effects of health and safety, labour market, welfare regulations on the economy and the epidemic; also the effects of land use, building design, planning laws and transport infrastructure and choices on the supply side and epidemiological risk.
- Act so as to encourage the establishment of similar centres overseas, and liase with those that exist currently, sharing and returning insights gained.
- Develop resources for public information and education about the interplay between economics and epidemiology, the trade-offs and choices that it throws up for society.