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Uppsala strengthens its attention on health economics

2013-10-21

Health costs increase as the number of elderly increases.

Two billion people will be 60 years or older in 2050. Despite a health system that is already struggling with strained resources, Sophie Langenskiöld, researcher in health economics, has an optimistic view of the future.

The world's population is in an age shift, some are even talking in terms of an age explosion. Irrespective of the choice of words, we live longer and our elderly are increasing. The economic consequences are already tangible. Today, Sweden has three individuals of working age per senior, while health care costs increase as the number of elderly increases. Add the UN forecast that the group 60 + will have increased from 810 million to two billion by 2050, it is clear that we are facing a huge challenge.

“Many prophets of woe ignore the fact that with increased longevity we also push our years of illness ahead of us, yet health care costs are still increasing and the elderly consume a disproportionately large amount of healthcare resources. In the near future, we will need better methods to control spending, but this means that we must first document the additional factors other than pure demographics that drive development,” says Sophie Langenskiöld, researcher in health economics at Uppsala University.

The health economics research began in the 1960s and combines, according to the National Encyclopaedia, ‘economic theory and analysis methods with knowledge of the factors that affect human health, and the health care organisation and financing’. The demographic development has contributed to the field’s increasingly prominent position, and in the autumn of 2012 the Health Economic Forum at Uppsala University, HEFUU, was initiated.
“Health economic research requires an interdisciplinary approach, and with HEFUU Uppsala University makes it clear that it intends to take the lead in this area of focus for tomorrow’s medical care. Personally, I believe it is an ambition that has all the prerequisites to be achieved, especially if we profile ourselves within Real-World Evidence which is increasingly in demand both by government agencies and industry,” says Sophie Langenskiöld.

With an aging population comorbidity and multiple drug treatments are becoming more common. Up to now research has prioritised randomised trials that exclude complex variables, this means that healthcare today lacks central knowledge about the success rate and cost-effectiveness of several standard treatments. As a link between the laboratory and clinical practice, Real-World Evidence presupposes extensive observational data and here Scandinavia's comprehensive prescription and healthcare case registers are unique assets.
“Uppsala University also possesses the necessary expertise to use and analyse the material, which gives us an immense advantage and makes us an attractive partner internationally. At the present time I’m putting together a team and am receiving great interest from among others Harvard. Hopefully we will start the project in 2014 and then relatively soon start to deliver results that increase society's knowledge about the efficiency and cost effectiveness of medicines and other treatments in clinical practice.

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FACTS/Forum for Health Economics
HEFUU is Uppsala University's forum for researchers in health economics.
HEFUU evaluates the effects of health shocks and medical interventions on economic outcomes, and economic events on health outcomes, to name but a few.
The Swedish healthcare registers and information about economic outcome give HEFUU unique material for health economic research.