Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A healthy recession?

WSJ headlines announce a new economic slowdown. Concerns about the current state of worlwide economy and the financial sector are growing again. A special report by The Economist talks about the third great wave:
A third great wave of invention and economic disruption, set off by advances in computing and information and communication technology (ICT) in the late 20th century, promises to deliver a similar mixture of social stress and economic transformation. It is driven by a handful of technologies—including machine intelligence, the ubiquitous web and advanced robotics—capable of delivering many remarkable innovations: unmanned vehicles; pilotless drones; machines that can instantly translate hundreds of languages; mobile technology that eliminates the distance between doctor and patient, teacher and student. Whether the digital revolution will bring mass job creation to make up for its mass job destruction remains to be seen.
Some years ago  I explained how Iceland economic crisis had no negative effect on health. Now we can confirm the impact in our country in a new report and presentation. The quick answer is that unemployment and poverty have a clear impact on health. As far as the crisis implies raising both determinants, then the result is clear: poor and unemployed population are the target to monitor and improve health. You can discuss over the trend of one specific indicator or its significance. That's a minor issue. In general, average longevity and health is improving, although average doesn't mean everybody. The only way to have a good answer is a cohort study with microdata. I think that somebody should start doing it now, it's crucial.
This report is the best exercise one can do to introduce some common sense in any debate about the crisis and its impact on health: go to the facts and data. Therefore, if somebody talks about negative effects of the crisis on health, now you have to be precise, there is a selective impact.
Some months ago, I considered that what we need is a continuous monitoring of health status in any situation. As far as nobody knows if we are still in crisis, or how many years it will take to recover, monitoring is the right word.
My impression is that we had a crisis in 2008 and a new economic model has emerged. The current situation is unstable, uncertain and unpredictable. That's why the WSJ has anounced a new slowdown today. It's not a crisis, it's a new slowdown (again).

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