Preface to the Third Edition
…what it is that every health economist ought to know…
The third edition of The Dictionary of Health Economics has been substantially enlarged from 2310 entries to 2770. I have added 259 references as sources for definitions and examples of practice. The total number of items in the bibliography now stands at 1395. I have made the system of cross-references and internet links more comprehensive. As a whole, the Dictionary is now, I trust, as complete a statement as exists anywhere of what it is that every health economist ought to know.
I have removed the appendix of 100 selected cost-effectiveness research studies. The volume of such studies is now so enormous that there is a significant danger of health-technology assessment and cost-effectiveness analysis being taken to constitute the entire material content of health economics. To be sure, the achievements of the health economists working in that field are to be marvelled at but one no longer needs reminding of the tremendous scope such studies now embrace and there are now ample and easily accessed examples of studies of the very highest quality.
Every former entry has been examined, updated and refined where necessary, corrected in a few cases and removed when redundant. There are few cases of the latter, the principal ground for removal being the loss of a website or the abolition or change in name of an organization.
My intention remains as before: The Dictionary is not intended to compete with textbooks, though it aims to be more comprehensive in its coverage than any text. As in previous editions, I have often gone beyond merely providing a definiens by adding a commentary, an illustration or a hint about possible misunderstanding, as well as references to the literature. There continue to be many misapprehensions about the subject of economics, the sub-discipline of health economics and the influence of economists on decision making, some of which combine malicious intent with disgraceful misrepresentation.1 My main hope is that The Dictionary may be of use to the reader in a hurry (whether a beginning economist or someone who needs to understand what economists go on about, or a well-established health economist who wants a reliable source for checking something). It still aims to serve those who merely want a reminder about p. viiia topic or a quick and relatively painless introduction to it. It would be great if, to borrow from Sir Topham Hat (the Fat Controller in Thomas the Tank Engine), The Dictionary has turned out, as I have always hoped, to be a ‘really useful engine’.
To the ‘boundary issues’ mentioned in the Preface to the second edition another needs to be added: health econometrics. Both theoretical innovations and immensely increased numbers of econometric applications have characterized recent years. I have tried to reflect this in both the entries and the bibliography. However I have typically not given the same detail as I have in many non-statistical entries, partly on account of the inordinate length that to have done so would have added to the book and partly on grounds of personal competence. There is undoubtedly a case for such an expansion but it is probably best done in another edition and with another compiler. For the present, therefore, such entries are mostly restricted to definitions only except, as in a few cases (e.g. Bayesian approaches), where the discipline of statistics has had an enormous impact on the economics, changing rather than merely complementing it.
Further improvements are of course possible, even necessary, and I would be very grateful for suggestions. Anyone wishing to make suggestions of this sort can send them to me at either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
See R. Horton, editor of The Lancet, in a series of tweets beginning ‘Economics, second only to “management”, may just be the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on the world.’ Twitter Dec 31, 2012. (https://twitter.com/richardhorton1/status/285694937792647168, accessed July 2, 2013).