Applying rigorous macroeconomic modelling around a human-capital augmented production function and state-of-the-art projections, in this line of work EF researchers are joining force with collaborators at Peking Union Medical College, University of Heidelberg, Harvard School of Public Health and Vienna University of Economics and Business in assessing the macroeconomic burden associated with a wide range of communicable and non-communicable diseases as well as the macroeconomic benefit of efforts aimed at disease reduction. We are planning to apply the framework to also assess the macroeconomic burden of climate change induced diseases as well as the role of education in lowering the economic burden of disease.

The global economic burden of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for 204 countries and territories in 2020–50: a health-augmented macroeconomic modelling study

Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death worldwide and imposes a substantial economic burden. Gaining a thorough understanding of the economic implications of COPD is an important prerequisite for sound, evidence-based policy making. We aimed to estimate the macroeconomic burden of COPD for each country and establish its distribution across world regions.

Methods: In this health-augmented macroeconomic modelling study we estimated the macroeconomic burden of COPD for 204 countries and territories over the period 2020–50. The model accounted for (1) the effect of COPD mortality and morbidity on labour supply, (2) age and sex specific differences in education and work experience among those affected by COPD, and (3) the impact of COPD treatment costs on physical capital accumulation. We obtained data from various public sources including the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019, the World Bank database, and the literature. The macroeconomic burden of COPD was assessed by comparing gross domestic product (GDP) between a scenario projecting disease prevalence based on current estimates and a counterfactual scenario with zero COPD prevalence from 2020 to 2050.

Findings: Our findings suggest that COPD will cost the world economy INT$4·326 trillion (uncertainty interval 3·327–5·516; at constant 2017 prices) in 2020–50. This economic effect is equivalent to a yearly tax of 0·111% (0·085–0·141) on global GDP. China and the USA face the largest economic burdens  from COPD, accounting for INT$1·363 trillion (uncertainty interval 1·034–1·801) and INT$1·037 trillion (0·868–1·175), respectively.

Interpretation: The macroeconomic burden of COPD is large and unequally distributed across countries, world regions, and income levels. Our study stresses the urgent need to invest in global efforts to curb the health and economic burdens of COPD. Investments in effective interventions against COPD do  not represent a burden but could instead provide substantial economic returns in the foreseeable future.

Chen, S., Kuhn, M., Prettner, K., Yu, F., Yang, T., Bärnighausen, T., Bloom, D.E, & Wang, C. (2023). The global economic burden of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for 204 countries and territories in 2020–50: a health-augmented macroeconomic modelling study. The Lancet Global Health 11 (8) 1183-1193. 10.1016/S2214-109X(23)00217-6.

Estimates and Projections of the Global Economic Cost of 29 Cancers in 204 Countries and Territories From 2020 to 2050

Importance: Cancers are a leading cause of mortality, accounting for nearly 10 million annual deaths worldwide, or 1 in 6 deaths. Cancers also negatively affect countries’ economic growth. However, the global economic cost of cancers and its worldwide distribution have yet to be studied.

Objective: To estimate and project the economic cost of 29 cancers in 204 countries and territories.

Design, Setting, and Participants: A decision analytical model that incorporates economic feedback in assessing health outcomes associated with the labor force and investment. A macroeconomic model was used to account for (1) the association of cancer-related mortality and morbidity with labor supply; (2) age-sex-specific differences in education, experience, and labor market participation of those who are affected by cancers; and (3) the diversion of cancer treatment expenses from savings and investments. Data were collected on April 25, 2022.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Economic cost of 29 cancers across countries and territories. Costs are presented in international dollars at constant 2017 prices.

Results: The estimated global economic cost of cancers from 2020 to 2050 is $25.2 trillion in international dollars (at constant 2017 prices), equivalent to an annual tax of 0.55% on global gross domestic product. The 5 cancers with the highest economic costs are tracheal, bronchus, and lung cancer (15.4%); colon and rectum cancer (10.9%); breast cancer (7.7%); liver cancer (6.5%); and leukemia (6.3%). China and the US face the largest economic costs of cancers in absolute terms, accounting for 24.1% and 20.8% of the total global burden, respectively. Although 75.1% of cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, their share of the economic cost of cancers is lower at 49.5%. The relative contribution of treatment costs to the total economic cost of cancers is greater in high-income countries than in low-income countries.

Conclusions and Relevance: In this decision analytical modeling study, the macroeconomic cost of cancers was found to be substantial and distributed heterogeneously across cancer types, countries, and world regions. The findings suggest that global efforts to curb the ongoing burden of cancers are warranted.

Chen, S., Cao, Z., Prettner, K., Kuhn, M., Yang, J., Jiao, L., Wang, Z., Li, W., Geldsetzer, P., Bärnighausen, T., Bloom, D.E., & Wang, C. (2023). Estimates and Projections of the Global Economic Cost of 29 Cancers in 204 Countries and Territories From 2020 to 2050. JAMA Oncology 9 (4) 465-472. 10.1001/jamaoncol.2022.7826.

The economic burden of COVID-19 in the United States: Estimates and projections under an infection-based herd immunity approach

Objectives: To assess the economic burden of COVID-19 that would arise absent behavioral or policy responses under the herd immunity approach in the United States and compare it to total burden that also accounts for estimates of the value of lives lost.

Methods: We use the trajectories of age-specific human and physical capital in the production process to calculate output changes based on a human capital–augmented production function. We also calculate the total burden that results when including the value of lives lost as calculated from mortality rates of COVID-19 and estimates for the value of a statistical life in the United States based on studies assessing individual’s willingness to avoid risks.

Results: Our results indicate that the GDP loss associated with unmitigated COVID-19 would amount to a cumulative US$1.4 trillion by 2030 assuming that 60 percent of the population is infected over three years. This is equivalent to around 7.7 percent of GDP in 2019 (in constant 2010 US$) or an average tax on yearly output of 0.6 percent. After applying the value of a statistical life to account for the value of lives lost, our analyses show that the total burden can mount to between US$17 to 94 trillion over the next decade, which is equivalent to an annual tax burden between 8 and 43 percent.

Conclusion: Our results show that the Unite States would incur a sizeable burden if it adopted a non-interventionist herd immunity approach.