Economic & Health Policy Research Program

Analyzing the economics and politics of cancer risk factors

Our Mission

The Economic and Health Policy Research (EHPR) program seeks to address cancer worldwide by conducting research on the economic and policy aspects of risk factors to cancer, including in the areas of tobacco, nutrition, physical activity and harmful alcohol use. We also examine issues around the economics of health equity, including access to care. Within these broader goals, we aim to:

  • Provide insights into how market forces and governmental policies affect unhealthy behaviors and consequent health outcomes (and vice versa).
  • Increase capacity of colleagues in low- and middle-income countries in relevant data collection, analysis, and the dissemination of policy-relevant research results.
  • Promote collaboration and coordination among researchers, advocacy organizations, policy makers, and funders engaged in similar research programs and policy initiatives.

Our Work

Our program’s historical focus has been on tobacco control, but in recent years, we have made significant efforts to expand to nutrition, physical activity, and harmful alcohol use. Our team of economic and policy analysts, headed by Jeffrey Drope, Ph.D., examines and reports on the most pressing modifiable cancer risk factors globally: tobacco use, nutrition, physical activity, and harmful alcohol use.

Tobacco control remains one of the core components of the EHPR’s broader scientific inquiry. In particular, our investigators have generated cutting-edge research on tobacco prices, taxes, affordability, and illicit trade, and the consequences of international trade and investment policies on tobacco control policies. Recently, our team has led one of the main research initiatives to understand the economics of tobacco farming, including how it remains a barrier to global tobacco control efforts. Read more about our work in tobacco control.

Nutrition has emerged as major global cancer challenge. Analyzing the economics of nutrition is a particular area of focus for the EHPR. Recently, our team has completed research into the relationship between participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and dietary quality that reveals SNAP participants are more likely to consume a lower quality diet than income-eligible participants, emphasizing the need to support interventions encouraging a healthful diet among SNAP participants. We have also recently completed research at the nexus of nutrition and access to care within the Affordable Care Act.

Physical activity – and inactivity – and its impact on cancer is a rapidly evolving area of research. Kerem Shuval, Ph.D., leads the program’s physical activity research, recently collaborating with the Cooper Center to produce the first-ever analysis to look at the role of fitness in the relationship between sedentary time and increased obesity and metabolic risk. Notably, the inclusion of fitness in these models appears to mitigate most of the previously observed negative effects of prolonged sedentary time, suggesting that fitness should continue to be emphasized to reduce morbidity and mortality risk.