Thursday, September 19, 2013

Teaching Economics of animal health: what are the needs

You probably know that all teachers think their course and their topic is the most important topic that is taught in an education. Well, it is no different for us people that are teaching Economics of animal health.

On the other hand, we do have an EU-funded network that is aimed at the promotion of the best use of economics by animal health professionals. Within the network, we are working to map existing educational materials and identifying gaps between needs for educational materials and availability of materials. Based on this gap we will develop new materials and make these available for all that want to use it (for more info, see the website of NEAT: The network was initiated and is lead by prof. Jonathan Rushton, one of the current leaders of the field of Economics of Animal Health.

Last week, the first Annual Meeting of NEAT was held and organized by RVC in London. A little less than 100 people form all over the world attended. Participants were members of the network but also people that were interested in the topic of teaching Economics of animal health. During the meeting, progress was presented but also a number of topics were discussed. I head to lead a discussion on how to close the gap between the Needs of the end user and the materials that are offered by educational institutions. But to answer that, we first have to find out if there is a gap between supply of teaching in Economics of animal health and the demand for teaching. Well, not surprisingly, we concluded that there was a gap. Now for the next step we need to find out what the demands are.

What is the need for teaching in the field of Economics of animal health???

To answer that we have to go out and talk to end-users. And yes, we are going to do that. But we also have our own ideas.


A first target group of animal health professionals are the veterinarians. A core level of knowledge that all veterinarians should have is the notion that economics are associated with the keeping of animals and with any animal health decision resources are associated (and thus economics). At the farm level this can be costs of intervention (monetary to be paid by the farmer) vs benefits of less disease (expressed in monetary terms). At the companion animal level this can be the costs of the intervention (monetary, to be paid by the owner) vs the utility of a healthy animal (not or very difficult to express in monetary terms). Besides that knowledge on economics of animal health, veterinarians might also want to know about the Business eocnomics of their own practise (how to determine a price, cost price, interpretation of annual economic reports, etc.).

More specifically on animal health the demands for the farm animal veterinary are:
  • Being able to reason on the consequences of diseases (including herd dynamics). Go beyond treatment of the individual animal.
  • Being able to do economic reasoning, so that veterinarians can (qualitatively) adjust standard calculations (from literature for instance) or to be able to expertly fill in tools that are available
  • At the herd level: costs of diseases (problem definition; basics of herd health planning)
  • Justify their own fee
  • Have knowledge on farmers' behaviour and goals
For companion animial veterinarians a specific demand is:
  • Value of insurance (companion animals). Economics behind insurances

Government decision makers

Another group of animal health professionals that might need knowledge on Economics of animal health are people working in governments. Demands for this group of professions are:

  • Effect of policies (import/export) on the primary producers (regulatory impact assessment)
  • Public vs private goods.
  • Assessments on market and sector level (not micro level)
  • Farmers behavior (goals)
  • Economic background of methods for eradication (how to cope with list A diseases)
  • Economics of surveillance
  • .....
for this group of professionals as well as for the veterinarians we can conclude that they do not need to receive teaching that they can do their own calculations. It is merely teaching so that these animal health professionals are able to understand calculations and be a informed partner of professionsals in Economics of animal health.

This is just the beginning

The demands given above are just a first idea that was based on discussions during the NEAT annual meeting. If you are reading this blog and think that we forgot something, please let me know (you can comment this blog). If you think that a demand I wrote down is not necessary, let me know also. And finally, if you want to join the NEAT network, feel free to do so. Send an e-mail to :

No comments:

Post a Comment