Managing Global Health: Applying Behavioral Economics to Create Impact
Course Number 2230
Associate Professor Nava Ashraf
Winter; Q3Q4; 3 credits
Managing Global Health (MGH) trains students to see through the lens of the end-user and to use the levers of behavior change to generate impact in health and social programs. Although most of the applications are in global health, it is appropriate for students who anticipate working in health, education, or international development sectors, as well as those with a general interest in learning how behavioral economics can be effectively applied.
Health, and development more broadly, is not something we give to people: it is something they produce themselves, interacting with supply-side and institutional factors. In this course, students learn how to design products and services from the perspective of the patient/customer and the provider/supplier. Students will also learn to utilize the most cutting-edge and gold standard research and evaluation methods in this design. Through exposure to major practitioner challenges and innovative solutions from HBS Case discussions, protagonists from the field, expert guest faculty from across Harvard, and engagement with research in public health, public policy, psychology, and economics, students will learn to bridge the worlds of research and action to creatively, and skillfully, make an impact in global health.
Course Content and Organization
The course is organized around three core modules, each of which focus on one of the elements that comes together to jointly produce a health outcome: the customer, the provider, and the system.
Understanding the Customer
The course begins by placing the customer - not the donor - at the center of public health services. We ask how services and products look differently when designed with the customer at its core. Many of the remaining barriers to improving health outcomes lie within the patient. For example, condoms can prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other STIs, but are not routinely used. How do we encourage individuals to adopt such health products that essentially guarantee a positive health outcome, are cheap, and are easy to use? Similarly, adding simple water purification solution daily to dirty water makes it potable and can prevent diarrhea. Why don't we see regular use of this effective technology to prevent water-borne illness? We examine innovative product design mechanisms to increase positive health behavior.
Motivating the Provider
Many of the lessons learned in the module on understanding customer behavior will be relevant for understanding how to effectively motivate the provider to provide the best care possible. We examine how providers can be encouraged to adopt key technologies, such as rapid diagnostic tests for malaria or quality control measures, and how providers can leverage innovative health product delivery mechanisms to improve distribution of important health products. We also explore how to optimally use incentives and pricing within a health context.
Influencing the System
Influencing the system requires thinking creatively about organizational change, and applying behavioral insights. A particular emphasis is made on examining the potential for public-private partnerships and the role for private sector contribution to public goods. We'll ask what determines whether public sector, non-governmental, or private sector organizations can successfully adapt a markets-based, incentives-based approach for the delivery of global health. An emphasis will be placed on how to incorporate rigorous impact evaluation findings into the policies and agendas of actors at all levels.