How does your work contribute to health system sustainability?
What I think we bring to the table is a way to step back from the complexity of healthcare and, with data, articulate our working knowledge of how things fit together. We also do so in a way that is (con)testable and updatable. This is a fairly standard definition of economics. As applied economists working in health services, we do steal methods from other disciplines and are sometimes criticised as being masters of reductionism: we can put a price or fit a distribution curve on anything.
This would sound bad if all we talked about was money, but we don’t. Our unique contribution is helping to make explicit our assumptions about the way specific events and people relate to each other and to a range of costs (not just money) and different outcomes (not just health). We then provide a framework for considering all this information together to guide the decisions we otherwise would make without good evidence.
How has collaborating with PCHSS impacted your research?
I have benefited immensely from being pulled together with a bunch of interesting people, who are all interested in asking similar questions about value from diverse perspectives. The PCHSS is itself a complex group, and I’m constructively challenged to adapt my own understanding of what sustainability might mean, the specific barriers to this within Australia, and the degree to which this matters.
What was your favourite subject at school?
All the music subjects, particularly the ones where you make noise. I was lucky to attend a selective music school with passionate teachers who really invested themselves in our learning, so the noise we made wasn’t all bad. Good teachers make all the difference and their lessons continue to stick with me.
What might you be found doing outside work?
I recharge outdoors. Stretch the legs and eyes. Coffee and wine in the sun are good, too. Sydney has so many beautiful beaches and tidal pools – I’m trying them all and have recently discovered how to hold my breath under water.
What was the last great book you read?
Slow Man by J. M. Coetzee – I read all his books and think they’re great. Both this book and the author are based in Adelaide! It’s particularly special to read such an acclaimed local writer, explore some of the complex relationships between care, carers, personality and adaptation to injury.