People walking on street Lives vs Livelihoods

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Lives versus Livelihoods: evaluating policies to address COVID-19

Hosted by the Global Health Initiative and the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

Online public event

Chair

Professor Alex Voorhoeve

Professor Alex Voorhoeve

Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, LSE

The COVID-19 pandemic appears to force governments to make difficult trade-offs, including between limiting its direct health impacts and maintaining economic activity. Welfare economics offers tools to conceptualize this trade-off: value of statistical life (VSL), value of statistical life years (VSLYs), quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), and social welfare analysis.  

In this webinar, panellists will discuss the value of these tools for assessing policies that impact health and wealth. Panellists will also discuss the usefulness and limitations of formal modelling, the impacts of policies that intend to suppress the virus, and those that instead attempt more lenient control of the spread. Finally, panellists will examine how feasible policies and associated trade-offs depend on country circumstances: how should the policy response in India or Lebanon differ from the policy response in France or the UK? 

Related reading: 

Assessing the Well-being Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Three Policy Types: Suppression, Control and Uncontrolled Spread [Available here]

India's Lockdown: An Interim Report [Available here

What Should We Spend to Save Lives in a Pandemic? A Critique of the Value of Statistical Life [Available here

Valuing Mortality Risk in the Time of COVID-19 [Available here]

Killer Lockdowns [Available here]  

About the Speakers: 

Joelle M. Abi-Rached is a medical historian and a medical doctor. She earned a medical doctorate from the American University of Beirut (2006), an M.Sc. in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics (2007), and a Ph.D. in History of Science from Harvard University (2017). She has held numerous fellowships and is the recipient of many awards including the 2019 Jack D. Pressman-Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Development Award in 20th Century History of Medicine or Biomedical Sciences bestowed by the American Association for the History of Medicine. Her research focuses on the politics of life, health, and wealth with a particular interest in the politics of health as it plays out in poor and developing countries as well as in the modern Middle East. Her interests and perspective lie at the intersection of history, philosophy, ethics, medicine, and policy.

Matthew Adler is Richard A. Horvitz Professor of Law and Professor of Economics, Philosophy and Public Policy at Duke University and Lachmann Research Fellow at the LSE. His scholarship is interdisciplinary, drawing from welfare economics, normative ethics, and legal theory.  Adler’s current research agenda focuses on “prioritarianism”—a refinement to utilitarianism that gives extra weight (“priority”) to the worse off. Adler is the author of several monographs, including Well-Being and Fair Distribution: Beyond Cost-Benefit Analysis (Oxford, 2012); and Measuring Social Welfare: An Introduction (Oxford, 2019). With Marc Fleurbaey, he edited the Oxford Handbook of Well-Being and Public Policy (2016). He is a co-author of Assessing the Well-being Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Three Policy Types: Suppression, Control and Uncontrolled Spread.

Richard Bradley is Professor of Philosophy at LSE. Much of his work is on individual decision making under uncertainty and the role of hypothetical reasoning in reaching judgements about what to do. He also works on social value and choice. He is the author of Decision Theory with a Human Face (Cambridge, 2017). He is a co-author of Assessing the Well-being Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Three Policy Types: Suppression, Control and Uncontrolled Spread.

Maddalena Ferranna is a Research Associate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She is mainly interested in issues of intra- and inter-generational equity in relation to environmental and health risks. Her current research focuses on establishing a social welfare approach to assess the value of vaccination. She is a co-author of Assessing the Well-being Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Three Policy Types: Suppression, Control and Uncontrolled Spread.

Marc Fleurbaey is Professor at the Paris School of Economics. He was previously Professor of Economics and Humanistic Studies at Princeton University and Lachmann Research Fellow at the LSE. His areas of research are welfare economics, social choice theory, well-being, public economics, and climate policy. He is the lead author of the International Panel on Social Progress and served on the International Panel on Climate Change and the Stigliz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission on the measurement of well-being. He is a co-author of Assessing the Well-being Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Three Policy Types: Suppression, Control and Uncontrolled Spread.

James K. Hammitt is Professor of Economics and Decision Sciences in the Departments of Health Policy and Management and of Environmental Health, and Director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. His research focuses on the development and application of quantitative methods to health and environmental policy, including benefit-cost, decision, and risk analysis. His topical areas of interest include management of long-term environmental issues with major scientific uncertainties, such as global climate change, evaluation of ancillary benefits and countervailing risks associated with risk-control measures, and characterization of social preferences over health and environmental risks using revealed-preference, state-preference, and health-utility methods. He is a co-author of Assessing the Well-being Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Three Policy Types: Suppression, Control and Uncontrolled Spread.

Sreenivasan Subramanian is an independent researcher and a retired professor from the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS), and a former Indian Council of Social Science Research National Fellow. He is an elected Fellow of the Human Development and Capabilities Association, and he was a member of the advisory board of the World Bank’s Commission on Global Poverty. His work has been on aspects of social and economic measurement, collective choice theory, and development economics. He is the author of, among other books, Rights, Deprivation, and Disparity: Essays in Concepts and Measurement; The Poverty Line; and Economic Offences (Oxford University Press, Delhi: 2006, 2012 and 2013 respectively). He is a co-author of “India's Lockdown: An Interim Report” NBER Working Paper No. 27282.

About the Chair:

Alex Voorhoeve is Professor of Philosophy at the LSE and part-time Visiting Professor of Ethics and Economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam. He works on the theory and practice of distributive justice (especially as it relates to health), on rational choice theory and moral psychology. He is co-author of Making Fair Choices on the Path to Universal Health Coverage: Final Report of the WHO Consultative Group on Equity and Universal Health Coverage. He is a co-author of Assessing the Well-being Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Three Policy Types: Suppression, Control and Uncontrolled Spread.

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

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