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Economics of Health Behavior

Health Services and Systems Research (HSSR) Singapore Economics of Health BehaviorHealth care represents a collection of services, products, institutions and regulations and people that can improve the health of individuals. The markets for health care are marked by a number of important, if not unique, economic features.


Uncertainty prevails at all levels of health care, from the irregularity and uncertainty of individuals’ illnesses to an incomplete understanding of how well medical treatment works and for whom.  Asymmetric information, which occurs when one party does not have complete information about the other party in a relationship, is also common.  Externalities are external benefits and costs that arise when one person’s actions create benefits for or impose costs on others, and when those benefits and costs are not privately accounted for in individuals’ decisions.


Another important feature of health care is the extent of government intervention.  In Singapore and almost everywhere else in the world, healthcare professionals have to pass a formal certification process before practicing.  New drugs and medical devices must be approved before they reach the market.  The Singapore government provides and regulates health care services, as well as carries out or sponsors health care research.   It is compulsory for citizens and permanent residents in Singapore to contribute to the Medisave Scheme, which is a national healthcare savings scheme designed to help members pay for hospitalization expenses and selected outpatient treatments.  They can also sign up to MediShield, which is a low cost catastrophic illness insurance scheme help members meet medical expenses from major illnesses, which could not be sufficiently covered by their Medisave balance.


The Economics of Health Behavior Team, headed by the Deputy Head of HSSR Dr. Eric Finkelstein, aim to help tackle health care issues in Singapore and beyond through the application of their knowledge in health economics.  They address the economic and financing aspects of the production, distribution, and organization of health care services and delivery. This includes the structure of health care delivery and insurance markets, demand for and supply of health services, pricing of services, cost of care, financing mechanisms, and their impact on the relevant markets.   Below is a list of their current projects.

Economics of Health Behavior Projects

A Blueprint for Identifying a Successful Walking Program Targeting Singaporeans Age 50+

Description: Funded by the Virtual Institute for the Study of Ageing (VISA) at National University of Singapore (NUS), this is a 2-year study which seeks to identify a successful walking program targeting Singaporeans age 50 and above. This project provides a roadmap for designing a walking program for older Singaporeans that has high...

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Trial for Incentives on Obesity (TRIO)

While evidence-based weight loss interventions can be effective in lowering the weight of obese individuals and improving their health, uptake in these programs tends to be low and, in the majority of cases, weight loss is not sustained. Trial for Incentives on Obesity (TRIO) is a 12-month randomized controlled trial which aims to incorporate theory-based economic incentives into evidence-...

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Association Between Health Behaviors and Intra-Day Work Performance: A Mobile Survey Study of Nurses

The goal of the proposed study is to examine the short-term relationship between health-related behaviours and job performance. Our proposed study population are nurses on shift work in a major tertiary hospital in Singapore. Behaviours, which will be measured several times per day over a 7-day interval, include sleep patterns, quantity and quality of food consumption, and leisure...

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An Exploratory Randomized Controlled Trial of a Novel Family-Based Intervention to increase Outdoor Time for the Prevention of Myopia and Increase Physical Activity among Singapore Youth

This study aims to develop, implement, and evaluate a novel incentive-based family intervention to increase time spent outdoors and increase physical activity among children aged 6 to 10 years in a 1-year exploratory randomized controlled trial. Involving a 6-month physical activity programme comprising structured outdoor activity sessions, pedometers and modest financial incentives, success...

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The Role of Risk Factors in Influencing Inpatient Utilization and Costs: Evidence from linked Singapore Chinese Cohort Data

Description: As the country becomes wealthier and its population ages, Singapore is facing a dual health challenge. It wants to expand access to insurance coverage and subsidy for its people, and at the same time, find ways tocontrol healthcare costs. Thus far, the government has been proactive in responding to this dual challenge. Recent policy...

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