Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Quote of the day

Greg Mankiw:
Given how overweight we Americans are compared with citizens of other countries, it is amazing that we live as long as we do. If we further standardized life expectancy by body-mass index, the U.S. lead in health outcomes would likely grow even larger.
Mankiw argues convincingly that it's not the fault of the US health care system that Americans are so unhealthy. See more here and here.

Mankiw points to this article in the Washington Post. An extract:
I was talking to Barry Nalebuff, a professor at Yale University and one the country's top game-theory economists. He has studied weight-loss incentives extensively. When I told him what my wife was paying me, he said: "It's not going to work. It's not big enough. Not even close." He had another idea: Take a picture of myself in a Speedo, and if I don't lose weight, he gets to hang the picture in my office. For extra motivation, he suggested I procure a similar picture of my wife, theorizing (correctly) that she wouldn't want my colleagues to see that much of her. "Then you'll really lose the weight," he said. He has done two nationally televised studies showing that this strategy works.

Nalebuff thinks the weight loss will happen only if there is something of importance being risked. When I told him that my wife might kill me under his proposed arrangement -- thereby defeating the purpose of me losing weight -- he suggested I enter into a contract in which I agree to pay him if I don't drop some pounds. "As much as people don't like to lose money, what they really don't like to lose is their own money," he said.

In fact, some of his Yale colleagues are in the final stages of launching a business based on this very concept.
Perhaps they could open a branch in the UAE. According to the Gulf News Treatment of diabetes is a big drain on national healthcare budget. Diabetes is caused by diet. Here's where healthcare policy comes in. When your government takes care of you if you don't take care of yourself, then incentives are screwed up. But it's very difficult for the government to refuse to take care of you, especially if it's a wealthy nation. Perhaps the UAE government should commit to giving a few billion dollars away to Darfur if it fails to stick to a policy of refusing to take care of people who don't take care of themselves.

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