Policy and Behavioral Determinants of Adult Population Health

An important ongoing focus of CEDA is understanding the behavioral and ultimately health effects of key economic policies, which in turn requires fundamental understanding of human behavior across the life course. In addition to behavioral economics, our research also emphasizes the synergies possible in the field by pushing cross-fertilization with other fields researching health behavior determinants, which we believe is crucial at this point in the field’s evolution.

CADAS project, with Will Dow (Public Health). “Dementia Determinants in Caribbean and U.S. Hispanics.” Funded by R01AG064778, will add data from non-metro populations to previously collected surveys of the 65+ capital city metro populations in the Hispanic Caribbean island/countries of Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. These data will enable comprehensive analysis of the relationship of dementia with lifecourse socioeconomic determinants and consequences across highly varied contexts. The study will compare findings to representative data for U.S. populations of Hispanic Caribbean origin to understand the key drivers of dementia as well as the resulting formal and informal care costs, then simulate how prevalence and costs could be different under altered social arrangements.

A Pilot Trial of Gamification for Enhancing a Smoking Cessation App. This project, now funded by an NIH grant, is led by Justin White (UCSF), Séverine Toussaert (University of Oxford) and Johannes Thrul (Johns Hopkins). This research project is developing a novel intervention to increase smoking cessation by engaging and retaining smokers in smartphone-based cessation interventions by employing a motivational tool that uses non-monetary rewards to make behavior fun or playful—will increase engagement, retention, and quit rates relative to an app without gamification. The results of this project have the potential of offering new opportunities for the development of innovative strategies to improve smoking cessation interventions and reduce the risk of cancer and other illnesses attributable to tobacco among diverse populations.

How Excess Sugar Consumption Early in Life Affects Health in Adulthood
Paul Gertler (School of Public Health; Haas School of Business); Tadeja Gracner (RAND Corporation); Liang Bai, PhD (University of Edinburg). Daily intake of added sugars is too high not only for teens and adults, but among infants and toddlers as well: exceeding the adult daily limit by two years of age. Although put forth as a key risk factor for obesity and related disease, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and several types of cancers, rigorous evidence on the long-term health impacts of such early exposure is limited and the pathways through which early nutrition may have lasting effects are poorly understood. The aim of this research is to study long-term effects of exposure to sugar-rich diet in early childhood on diet and health in adulthood. By exploiting the end of the rationing of sugar and sweets in September 1953 in the United Kingdom as a natural experiment, the study can examine induced variation in exposure to sugar-rich diet in early childhood and thereby evaluate its long-term causal effect on diet and health of today’s older adults.

Machine Learning, Algorithms and Healthcare Decision-making, with Ziad Obermeyer.  This area of research takes a critical view of algorithms used by health care organizations to apportion treatment, and by government agencies to apportion funding.  In both cases, Black patients, and organizations serving a large clientele of Black patients, receive less treatment and resources.