Monday, July 8, 2013

Why is animal health economics a difficult topic in the veterinary curriculum

Some time ago I posted a blog why I think that it is important that veterinarians know something about economics. Well nothing news here on that.

Fortunately, I am not the only one who thinks so. Last year a European network project started, entitled "Networking to Enhance the use of Economics in Animal education, policy making, and research in Europe and beyond" (NEAT). The objective of this project is to strengthen and enhance the use of economics in animal health in higher education and professional environments throughout Europe. Project leader of this project is Jonathan Rushton from the Royal Veterinary College and one of the key players in the field of animal health economics. There is a blog on the NEAT website and the first contribution on this blog (after the welcome message of the project leader) was my blog on the importance of economics for the veterinarian. As a response, Professor Eystein Skjerve from the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, made a contribution on the reason why animal health economics is such a difficult topic in the veterinary curriculum. His observations are quite interesting and I have copied them underneath. Have fun!!

The elementary reason for this is of course that economics and production is not among the motivations for applying for vet school. But – there are more fundamental reasons linked to the lack of staff competence in vet schools. Veterinary epidemiologists or herd health staff not properly trained in economics may not be the best starting point, but I assume the major limitations is that staff may not know enough about the economic aspects of the animal production systems. To link epidemiology and economics means that you have to understand the biological rationale of the production systems. My strong belief is that teaching has to start from a clear biological scenario and not abstract economics. A vet student or graduate veterinarian will be able to follow into economy if the biological case is well described.
The challenge is thus to train teachers in economy without losing the intimate connection to animal health and the bio-production systems. Where the “true” economists fit here I forward as a question – should perhaps this be a two-step procedure – that the “true” economists train veterinarians/ epidemiologists at a sufficient level to teach vet students??

Do we recognize our own Veterinary Schools? I have heard stories from older veterinarians in the Netherlands that got economics from an economist. They learned about production functions, consumer demand, cost prices etc. but for me it sounded like the experience that I had with statistics (prof Skjerve is working in the field of epidemiology and statistics). You learn a lot about statistics and at the moment you start doing research you think: "sh*t I thought I paid more attention during those statistics classes!!" I hope I am doing better now. How can we solve this phenomenom? One idea that I thought when we were introducting our elearning courses on animal health economics, is that elearning can be a solution. Just a thought.


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  2. I never imagined this would be a concern. I have been interested in learning and helping more with a Vancouver animal emergency. I want to do my part to make things better.

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