Behavioral Economics in Medicine & Public Health

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This course is no longer being offered.

Course Description

This course is designed specifically for English Language Learners interested in further developing their English skills in a challenging college-level academic setting.

You have an exam in the morning, but your friends are going out tonight. Even though you want to do well on the exam, you still stay out way too late. At some point, we all ask ourselves "Why did I do that?" Why do we often act in ways that are not in our own best interest?

Economics assumes that we act rationally, that is to say, we would have stayed home. However, the standard economic framework (essentially) ignores the important work of cognitive and social psychologists studying behavior. The field of Behavioral Economics employs principles and techniques from the fields of psychology, economics and decision science to understand how people make decisions and can provide insight on those decisions - even when they often conflict with our own best interests.

In this course, we will explore how Behavioral Economics can be applied to the fields of medicine and public health. We will consider the role of incentives on decision making and the ethical issues that arise when implementing these "nudges" in healthcare. Should we create incentives to promote wellness, like paying people to lose weight or to donate a kidney to a stranger in need? Should we implement "disincentives" to penalize individuals making poor health decisions, such as smoking? What if the changes we make are more subtle or obscured, like rearranging supermarket shelves to place more healthy foods within eye level of the shopper to promote better food choices?

This course will introduce students to the key concepts of behavioral economics and how they compare to classical economics. Through case studies, we will explore the direct and indirect consequences of using behavioral economic techniques to modulate decision making in the healthcare system – at the individual, system and national level.

Students will be introduced to the major concepts in behavioral economics and their foundations in economics and psychology and become familiar with the most important contributions to the field, including the work of the 2017 Nobel Laureate in Economics, Richard Thaler - a behavioral economist.

Students will:
- Describe the principles of traditional economic theory and behavioral economics, their respective strengths and weaknesses and how they address the behavior of individuals and groups in the healthcare sector.
- Analyze theoretical papers and research studies in the field of behavioral economics.
- Discuss these topics effectively on these topics, recognizing different audiences.

Prerequisites: Interest in public health and medicine, no formal economics or psychology required.


Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPY0801
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information

Summer@Brown for English Language Learners

A select group of non-credit courses in the liberal arts and sciences supplemented with English language learning, two weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For University-bound English language learners completing grades 9-12 by June 2019.

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