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Health Economics and Research into Poverty

by YPU Admin on February 18, 2016, Comments. Tags: Economics, Health, Health Outcomes, Mental Health, Physical, Poverty, Research, and UoM

INTRODUCTION

My name is Julius Ohrnberger and I am a first year PhD researcher in Health and Development Economics. My A-levels were in English, German, Mathematics and History. After graduating from high school in Germany, I studied Economics for my first degree at Heidelberg University in Germany. I then did a Masters in Economics and Development Economics in 2014 at the Free University in Amsterdam. Prior to my PhD, I worked for a year as researcher in Health Economics for the University of Manchester.

In winter 2015, I started my PhD in Health Economics and Development Economics at the Centre for Health Economics at the University of Manchester. In my research, I aim to analyse the effect of cash transfers on health outcomes of poor families living in developing countries. I furthermore want to understand how the effect on health has potential in reducing poverty in the long-run.

IN DEPTH

Imagine that you have to live on less than £1 a day: £1 for food, clothing, the bus ticket, your mobile phone bills, etc. Imagine that public services like the GP, hospitals or your school are of very poor quality and there is far too few for all people, and you have to pay for it out of your pocket with the £1 a day. These are the challenges the global poor living in the developing world every day.

I want to understand in my research how regular cash transfers to this group of people affect their mental health and physical health outcomes. Furthermore, how the effect on mental and physical health relates to long term poverty alleviation. Mental health is a state of emotional well-being. A mental health outcome can be how often you were sad or felt restless the past week. Physical health is defined as a state of physical well-being. A physical health outcome can be your blood pressure or the number of health days in the past month. It is very likely that more income through the cash transfer has an effect on both the mental health and the physical health. Improving either is essential in helping the poor to improve their lives and especially to help them to leave a state of poverty.

I look in my research at three different countries namely Indonesia a South-East Asian country, South Africa a sub-Saharan African country, and Mexico a Latin American country. I use large datasets for each of these countries. The data entails information about the mental health outcomes of the poor people such as depression or anxiety, physical health outcomes such chronic diseases or blood pressure, and if the person received a cash transfer. The same poor people are observed and interviewed over several years and thus it is possible to identify changes in health and poverty due to the cash transfers.

My research is important as it is a unique project which sets poverty into the light of both mental and physical health outcomes. Mental health is a strongly neglected topic in international development policies, but mental health problems are one of the leading causes of illnesses worldwide and especially in the developing world. My research seeks to immediately address this gap, and to provide an analysis which could be important for future development policies centred on mental health.


GOING FURTHER

For updates on my research activities, follow me on Twitter: @JWEO_O

To get more information about mental health in developing countries, visit: http://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/en/

And http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/may/10/mental-illness-developing-world

For information what we are up to in the Manchester Centre for Health Economics, visit our website: http://www.population-health.manchester.ac.uk/healtheconomics/ or follow us on twitter: @HealthEcon_MCR



 

Healthy Mind, Healthy Body...

by YPU Admin on October 29, 2015, Comments. Tags: efficacy, Health, psychology, Research, STI, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Nicola Beer and I work as a Graduate Intern for the Student Recruitment and Widening Participation department at the University of Manchester. Prior to this, I completed a degree in Psychology (also at the University of Manchester) and I graduated in July this year.

As part of my degree I was required to undertake a final year project under the supervision of an academic researcher at the University of Manchester. One area that particularly interested me throughout my degree was Health Psychology and so I was pleased when the supervisor I was allocated to was a researcher in this area.

My research project involved investigating factors that influence people’s intentions to take on a particular health behaviour. The health behaviour that I focused on in my research was sexual health behaviour. More specifically, I focused on what influenced people to use a self-test kit to test themselves for STI infections.



In Depth

In order to carry out my research, I tested factors from a theory used by many Health Psychologists, called Protection Motivation Theory. One factor from this model that is believed to influence people’s health behaviour is ‘self-efficacy’. Self-efficacy is defined as one’s belief in their own ability to change their behaviour; if they have high self-efficacy they are more likely to engage in positive health behaviours. Another factor is ‘fear’. Does how fearful someone is about a particular health outcome (e.g. obtaining a sexually transmitted disease, as I investigated in my research) influence the health behaviour they display?

In order to collect data for my research, I developed a questionnaire with my supervisor that contained questions designed to measure what influences peoples’ intentions to use a self-test kit. I ran various statistical tests on the questionnaire to check its internal consistency (whether several items that propose to measure the same general construct produce similar scores). It was then sent out to all first and second year undergraduate Psychology students who completed it online.

What I found…

I analysed the results using a hierarchical multiple regression and found, consistent with much other research in the area, that two factors significantly predicted individual’s intentions to self-test for Chlamydia. These factors were vulnerability and self-efficacy; therefore those who perceived themselves to be more vulnerable to the health risk, and those with higher self-efficacy, were more likely to intend to self-test, i.e. more likely to carry out the positive health behaviour.

What this means…

My research has practical applications to the real-world suggesting that increasing an individuals’ self-efficacy will result in them being more likely to use self-test kits. An example of this practical application could be to provide clear instructions with self-test kits with the aim of increasing individual’s confidence in their ability to use the kit.

My research was also useful in that it can be used to inform academics of future areas that research could be carried out in. For example, more research could go into examining further the role of fear in predicting behavioural intentions (which did not produce a significant result in my research).

I enjoyed my final year research project because I got the chance to use skills gained during my degree (e.g. statistical analysis and data collection skills) to carry out research into an area that interested me.

Going Further…