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Like my father (and all my male uncles on my father’s side and, indeed, my mother and her mother) I have gradually contracted cataracts in both eyes. The operation to remove them takes only 20 minutes or so and, with a local anaesthetic and a ‘soothing’ agent it is a painless and simple procedure. I […]

Radiation hormesis

I have posted in the past on hormesis in relation to dose response models. The idea is that human exposure to certain toxins and dangerous phenemena such as radioactivity might be health-promoting at very low concentrations. Thus there is a type of threshold effect at low enough concentrations. Below the threshold exposure improves health and […]

Health improves during recessions & depressions

I’ve heard of this argument before but the evidence here is strong. Across all age groups, for men and women, for both white and black people and for all causes of death (except suicide) life expectancy in the US rose from 1920-1940 during every strong recession including the great depression. It rose from 57.1 to […]

Scrapping private health insurance rebates a poor proposal

The Age reports this morning that the Government has been urged to scrap the 30% private health insurance rebate and to, instead, spend the money on public hospitals.  One can argue about the scale of this rebate but the subsidy makes sense in terms of standard economic theory.

Health markets in Australia are distorted by […]

Case for a migration policy discriminating against entrants with above-average health costs

The recent case where parents with a child having Down’s Syndrome were excluded from migrating permanently to Australia has aroused much emotion.  It is widely seen as discrimination against disabled people. It is nothing of the sort. It is discrimination against immigration applicants who may not provide net economic benefits to Australia if they are awarded migrant status. […]

Regulating pharmaceutical monopolies

Joshua Gans has a good post on the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The scheme uses the bargaining power of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) that derives from its ability to ‘list’ drugs eligible for government subsidies to curb the price demands of monopolistic pharmaceutical producers. Unless drugs are ‘listed’ (and supplied at a […]

Health tourism

I posted recently on the booming market in Thai exports of health services. Americans and Europeans are travelling in droves to Thailand to take advantage of lower costs of health services there. I sent a copy of the post to a well-known Australian trade theorist and his immediate response was – why doesn’t Australia get […]

Indigenous smoking yet again

I have been ridiculed at public fora for suggesting that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island (ATSI) smoking rates are an overwhelmingly important cause of the discrepancy between indigenous and non-indigenous mortality rates. The general response has been: ‘Harry you have a bee in your bonnet about smoking that ‘clouds’ your judgement’. It is true I […]

What does cholesterol have to do with it?

Gary Taubes disputes the connection between saturated fats and heart disease and the connection between lowering LDL cholesterol and reducing heart disease.

Because medical authorities have always approached the cholesterol hypothesis as a public health issue, rather than as a scientific one, we’re repeatedly reminded that it shouldn’t be questioned. Heart attacks kill hundreds of […]

Health & the power of suggestion

We know that the placebo effect is of importance in helping to cure people of diseases and illnesses – eating that worthless little pill that you believe can resolve your problems might do so. For that matter being married or going to church promotes your health also.

A related issue is whether joining a ‘support […]

Laser printers produce carcinogens

According to a recent report about 30% of laser printers in the office produce high levels of carcinogenic particulates in the air. The suggestion is to keep rooms ventilated and take care when using new cartridges and when doing graphical work. Otherwise having printers in your office can be as dangerous as passive smoking.


Skippy to rescue lung cancer sufferers?

From Opinion Dominion (a conservative blogsite) I learned of this funding proposal to investigate use of a bacterium found in the stomach of kangaroos to try to deal with lung cancer. A longer report is here.

From the first report:

‘A Queensland scientist has won a $750,000 fellowship to develop a lung cancer treatment from […]

Smoking bans in bars encourage quits

One reason for banning smoking in the workplace, in public places, bars and in cars with non-smokers is to limit the deadly consequences of passive smoking – moderate exposure to passive smoking increases heart disease risks by 50%. Another reason is to increase the ‘user costs’ of smoking for those who pursue the deadly-dangerous habit […]


It is an old theme on this blog but, in my view, the major cause of the obesity-diabetes epidemic in modern societies (developing and developed) is related to excessive sugar consumption. A sugar soft-drink or sugar-laden fruit juice drink per day increases the chance of a woman contracting diabetes by 80%.

Sweets, soft-drinks and fruit […]

Teeth economics

Labor proposes giving free dental care to those earning less than average earnings ($55,000) to reduce the 650,000 waiting list for public dental care. I wonder how this will work. The price of dental services is not determined by government – it is market-driven. Given that it takes time to train new dentists and that […]