Healthy Places, Healthy Planet
PHRESH (University of Birmingham)
Economic modelling to estimate the implications of population obesity and preventative actions on local authority budgets
To work closely with local authorities (LA’s) located in the West Midlands to develop an economic model that simulates the societal costs of obesity at a LA-level and acts as a decision-making tool to enable investment decisions for preventative actions
Health Economics, Economic Modelling, Public Health, Obesity
What has been your career journey so far?
I have had an unconventional journey that has led me to pursue an NIHR-funded PhD in health economics. I completed my intercalated BSc in Global Health in 2016 and qualified as a medical doctor in 2018. After two years of clinical medicine, I decided my student debt was still not enough so pursued an MSc in Public Health in 2021. This helped in obtaining a position on the public health specialty training scheme, during which I applied for and successfully secured the NIHR studentship.
Why did you choose to do a PhD in public health research?
During my BSc research project, I worked closely with an infectious disease clinician to create a decision-analytical model for population level antenatal screening. Since then, I have found the way in which health economics captures population health and economics concepts intriguing. Alongside this, during the latter stages of medical training, and particularly in the working world, I was becoming increasingly drawn to the concept of a PhD. Even now, being able to absorb myself in the health economics of obesity for three to four years whilst investing in myself as a person seems slightly surreal.
What is your research focused on?
From first principles, my research focusses upon a non-communicable disease, obesity, and a core concept in health economics, scarcity. The purpose of my PhD is to combine these principles. The desired outcome of my PhD would be to develop a user-friendly model and/or approach which forecasts the societal costs of obesity at a local authority level.
Why is it important?
My thoughts from a young age of the core attributes of a physician, and how this translated to practice as a junior doctor never considered financial implications as a factor when formulating a treatment decision. With increasing exposure to public health, it is clear there are opportunity costs of decision making within healthcare. My research aims to bridge the gap between evidence and policy. This is not at a macro-level, rather, the local authority, who have a pivotal role in curbing the rising obesity epidemic for their population, all whilst negotiating competing healthcare demands on a limited budget.
What do you like about being a part of the NIHR School for Public Health Research?
The NIHR School for Public Health Research feels like a community of individuals passionate about helping one another wherever they are in their academic journey. The link between NIHR and PHRESH allows me to seamlessly take advantage of networking opportunities, for example the ResNet and Annual Scientific Meeting.
What skills have you learnt and/or are hoping to learn as part of your PhD?
I would say developing my theoretical knowledge and practical application of health economic techniques would be the skills I would like to develop … although I used the Vitae Researcher Development Framework to pick and there are 61 other descriptors! I feel writing about my PhD here is one example of several great opportunities to develop my communication skills (I’m open to any tips!)
What do you hope to do after completing your PhD?
My A-level economics teacher felt I should have been an economist! This didn’t quite pan out but I am trying to stay true to this vision in a roundabout way … I still dream big, and hope to one day work as a professor of health economics