Current Research & Projects

Click on the sections below to learn more about the research and projects we are conducting.

The overall goal is to prevent future tobacco-related morbidity, mortality and medical care expenses in all smokers, but especially low-income smokers by adoption of novel, effective prevention measures delivered in non-medical venues. We aim to accomplish this by building the empirical basis and beginning to develop a more effective motivation to quit smoking based on a financial message to quit. Developing such a low-cost, population-based, intervention would expand the number of delivery settings. Such non-medical settings could include grocery stores, banks, check-cashing locations, tax preparation offices, etc., each of which may offer its own teachable moments related to costs of smoking. The financial motivation can be tailored to special populations, e.g., double your tax refund by quitting smoking or save money for your new baby. New venues and use of an effective, low-cost intervention will aid in reducing the smoking rates of low-income smokers and will address disparities in smoking, health and income. Using online web-based experiments and surveys, we will test whether the financial incentive to quit smoking is more effective than the health incentive. We will optimize the financial message by testing the impact of both priming the recipients to think about their financial situation and by tailoring to their specific smoking pattern. Based on the findings and our expertise in addiction treatment and behavioral economics, we will begin to develop a low-cost, intervention for low-income smokers. Effective, population-based approaches reduce the strain on the overburdened health care system, consistent with the emphasis on health care reform and providing prevention programs for low-income communities.

This is a $10 Million grant from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to the State of Connecticut and will be conducted in collaboration with Yale University, the Hispanic Health Council and other State agencies. Funding comes from the Medicaid Incentives for Prevention of Chronic Diseases grant program. The overall goal of this project is to improve residents' health and lower taxpayer's costs by helping Medicaid patients to quit smoking.

The program aims to significantly reduce smoking rates among the 25-30 percent of Connecticut (CT) Medicaid beneficiaries who smoke. Pregnant women and mothers of newborns and persons with serious mental illness will be a special focus of this program. By delivering incentives within person centered medical homes, obstetrics practices, and local mental health authorities we will leverage important changes to health care delivery under the Affordable Care Act. CT will take a multi-prong approach to smoking cessation, leveraging new comprehensive Medicaid coverage for evidence-based smoking cessation products.

This approach will be comprehensive, evidence-based, widely available to smokers and easily accessible. By including financial incentives to smokers for achieving both process (i.e., attending counseling sessions) and objectively verifiable outcome goals (i.e., smoking cessation) we will increase the quit rate in CT. The program will take a continuous collaborative learning approach, phasing-in services to determine the effectiveness of various approaches, and modifying the program as more is learned over the course of the four year program.

The evaluation plan will be overseen by Yale University, and its co-principal investigators, Drs. Jody Sindelar and Susan Busch, along with Project Coordinator, Mr. Kurt Petschke, from Yale's School of Public Health. Dr. Sindelar will work with the State to help to monitor the incentives. The yearly evaluations will be used as feedback and to continue to design the interventions in response to the findings from the previous evaluations. Dr. Busch will work with the State to help to plan the incentives with respect to the design of the randomization and overall design so that we can assess impact. Yale will consult on complex research design issues in the planning period and also aid in complex issues during the evaluations.

With passage of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the FDA gained power to regulate tobacco products and created the Center for Tobacco Products. To regulate effectively, the FDA must develop a strong knowledge base especially in an era of modified risk tobacco products (MRTPs). MRTPs are tobacco products that claim to reduce tobacco-related harms. Some are emerging products such as e-cigarettes and genetically modified tobacco products. Others are established products such as menthol cigarettes. The FDA must evaluate whether tobacco products, as used by consumers, lower risk to the U.S. population. E-cigarettes, for example, may lower risk but also may entice youths to smoke cigarettes and prevent smokers from quitting. Individuals may incorrectly perceive that menthol lowers risk. To prevent public health harm, the FDA requires information on net impact of tobacco products and must consider young people who are at risk of starting to use tobacco products as well as current and former smokers.

To develop the critical knowledge to regulate, we use the lens of economics and conduct school-based and online experiments. Experiments can provide information on emerging combinations of attributes of products in advance of wide-spread use. We will combine findings from our experiments with secondary data sets to predict use of and perceptions about tobacco products in nationally representative populations. Using large samples, we analyze sub-population heterogeneity: differences by age, gender and race, SES and combinations, i.e. women of child-bearing age and young minority smokers.

The overarching aim is to develop the knowledge base useful for effective tobacco product regulation to reduce nicotine addiction. To meet this aim, we will examine factors that influence both the perceptions of risk and interest in using tobacco products, including MRTPs; factors include both attributes of tobacco products as well sources of information about risks. In aims 1 and 2 we examine attributes of products and in aims 3 and 4 we examine formal (e.g., government) and informal (e.g., peers) sources of information (e.g., FDA) about risks. In aims 1-4 we will conduct Discrete Choice Experiments (DCEs) to reveal risk perceptions and interest in use across different populations varying by age, race, smoking status and SES. In Aim 5 we will apply findings from our experiments to nationally representative populations and vulnerable sub-populations.

A collaborative, predoctoral interdisciplinary training program that will produce scholars who will receive rigorous grounding in an academic discipline (health economics, policy analysis, or organizational theory) and who will acquire extensive training and research experience in addiction.

This training will build on the considerable strengths of current teaching, clinical, and research enterprises at Yale University and will link state-of-the-art methods with some of the nation’s leading clinical and research experts in addiction. The primary focus will be on illicit drugs, tobacco and HIV/AIDS as a critical comorbidity occurring with HIV/AIDS.

The American Society of Health Economists (ASHEcon) is a professional organization dedicated to promoting excellence in health economics research in the U.S. The objective of the ASHEcon conferences is to provide a forum for presenting emerging ideas, empirical results and methodological advances in health economics research and for facilitating the development of the next generation of health economics scholars. More specifically, the goal is to facilitate a large community of health economists to present and discuss high quality papers representing new and innovative research in important areas of health economics. The ultimate outcomes include better research on critical health topics, including aging related topics; generation of new research ideas; development of opportunities for students, junior researchers, women and minorities; dissemination of cutting-edge ideas; and a better knowledge base for private and public policies.

Plenary speakers, scientific sessions, papers, and posters will address the substantive area of aging through several topics. These include: quality of care; health insurance and health care reform; comparative effectiveness; Medicare (e.g., physician and hospital payment reforms, Medicare Advantage, and Part Ds); ethnic/racial and gender disparities in treatments and outcomes; retirement and health; VA services; health and health behaviors across the life-span; long-term care; preventive services for elderly; and diffusion of technology. Pre-conference sessions will explore topics such as new developments in econometric and other methods, and developments in government data availability.

Beginning with the conference at University of Wisconsin in 2006 and then the Duke conference in 2008, ASHEcon's biennial conference has quickly become established as the premier health economics conference in the United States. The third biennial ASHEcon conference was held June 20-23, 2010, at Cornell University in Ithaca NY. The fourth biennial conference was held at the University of Minnesota in 2012. the Fifth Biennial Conference, 2014 – “Health & Healthcare in America: From Economics to Policy” to be held June 22-25, 2014 at the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA.

The major goals are development of data collection guidelines, training materials and procedures, data submission guidelines, a data submission tool, and other materials and procedures necessary to support CMS's national implementation of the Medicare Advantage and the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan CAHPS Survey. This is an award to Harvard from the Rand Corporation with a subaward to Yale.