The New Zealand Initiative is starting a new research project on public health and lifestyle regulation. As with all our research projects, we’ll be engaging with a wide range of stakeholders in the sector as part of the research process. Here’s the general brief (available in our research agenda) of what we are aiming to do:
Individual decisions around health risks like diet and exercise can cost the public purse through the public health system. Because of this, we hear calls for regulating health-related behaviours through better nutrition and more exercise. But if everything we do affects our health and could impose costs on the public purse, are there any limits to the scope of lifestyle regulation?
We will investigate the extent to which costs on the public health system constitute a real market failure – and justify regulation. We will survey the international literature to propose policy solutions targeting real market failures, but with fewer costs for personal choice.
More specifically, we’ll be looking to answer four questions:
- Do costs falling on others through the public health system generate a market failure justifying regulation of individual health-related behaviours?
- What does robust and meaningful cost-benefit analysis look like in this sector?
- If we accept that government intervention is necessary, do current and proposed public health policies achieve what they purport to?
- Are there policies or options in place that achieve public health goals, while still respecting individual choice?
This is really a call to arms for anyone who would like to engage more with our work: If this is a field you are working in/are interested in, get in touch. If there are reports/studies/evidence you would like to draw our attention to, also please do get in touch. If you’re a journalist covering this area, get in touch and we’ll make sure you receive our latest comment and press releases.
If you’d simply like to observe our research from a distance, then keep an eye on this blog, as I’ll update it with my most recent learnings and musings on the topic. In the coming months, I’ll also be writing for our weekly Insights newsletter on the topic. You can sign up for it here.
Drop me a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org