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Collaborative research into public health costs

Collaborative research into public health costs

10 August 2017

Research by Dr Jananie William from the ANU Research School of Finance, Actuarial Studies and Statistics (RSFAS) gives new insight into the public health system costs of women during the perinatal period.

The paper, which will be published in the prestigious Annals of Actuarial Science, specifically uses actuarial techniques to look at the key drivers of hospital costs and finds that mode of delivery (caesarean vs vaginal delivery), adverse birth outcomes, private health insurance status, diabetes, smoking status and area of residence are the most significant factors.

“We found that mode of delivery is by far the biggest driver of costs, with women who have caesarean delivery costing almost twice as much as women who have vaginal deliveries,” said Dr William.

The study also finds that women who experience adverse birth events such as premature births and stillbirths also cost significantly more than women who have full term, healthy births.

“It is the first time a study has been conducted on maternal health costs with such a comprehensive dataset – we linked administrative hospital and birth data with the Australian Longitudinal Study for Women’s Health - and having such a robust dataset provided some interesting insights into how we should shape maternal health policy.”

The research draws on methodology based on actuarial principles from the general insurance industry. It demonstrates the effectiveness of using actuarial techniques in non-traditional areas, and highlights how the results can be used to inform public policy.

“My interest in this issue was first sparked on a personal level when I experienced a couple of adverse births myself and noticed there were still a lot of unanswered questions in this area. I wanted to contribute in some way but I also wanted to use my professional experience from industry and apply my actuarial skill set to a complex problem that was outside of the traditional actuarial space,” said Dr William.

“On behalf of the RSFAS I congratulate Jananie on this exciting work. In addition to its important public policy implications, this work highlights the general applicability of actuarial skills, and shows how important questions can be answered with collaborative research,” said Professor Steven Roberts, Director of the RSFAS.

The paper was co-authored by Professor Michael Martin (ANU CBE), who assisted with statistical expertise, and Dr Catherine Chojenta and Professor Deborah Loxton (University of Newcastle) who brought their expertise in women's health and public policy to the research.

Dr William is now conducting further research, focussing on the interactions between the public and private maternal health system.

Updated:   16 November 2017 / Responsible Officer:  CBE Communications and Outreach / Page Contact:  College Web Team