Emily Lancsar public lecture

Valuing health and human life: past, present and future

Professor Emily Lancsar presents a 2023 Fred Gruen public lecture.

Hosted by The Australian National University Research School of Economics.

Monetary values of health and human life are central to many public policy evaluations, such as new roads to reduce the death toll, improving health by reducing air pollution, and investment in healthcare to improve health and longevity. The value of a statistical life (VSL) was developed to value mortality-risk reduction and is broadly used in such evaluations. The quality-adjusted life year (QALY) was simultaneously developed for economic evaluation within the health sector.

In this lecture, Professor Emily Lancsar reflects on both approaches to valuing life and health, outlining a number of implications of the departure of health economics from the economics mainstream in its approach. Emily also presents a program of work on valuing life and health that addresses these implications, including distributional considerations. She concludes with an overview of new work to reconcile the two approaches and the implications arising from the potential for broader cross-sectoral comparisons across the public policy sphere.