I’m a health economist. Some people know me for my commentary on the strengths and weaknesses of the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare. Some physicians at the Texas Medical Center think that we health economists spend our days estimating the cost-per-life-year saved of various drugs and medical treatments. We actually venture more broadly than that. In the past year, I’ve studied the clinically popular notion that cancer patients treated at hospitals that perform more operations are less likely to die in-hospital. I’ve been writing about Texans’ lack of understanding of basic health insurance terminology too.
Sometimes, economists look through a more general lens. I found a recent article in the American Journal of Health Economics particularly applicable to the upcoming Super Bowl in Houston: Success is Something to Sneeze at: Influenza Mortality in Cities that Participate in the Super Bowl. The CDC and others want to know how changes in where, when, and how large numbers of individuals socialize can influence influenza pandemics. The Super Bowl represents an ideal opportunity to study the effects of changes in “mixing patterns,” because fans of the teams playing in the Super Bowl are more likely to gather to view the game together, and the hosting city experiences a substantial influx of people coming to watch the game.
In this study, a Tulane economist named Charles Stoecker and his coauthors combined data on death records, population, and weather with dates and locations of Super Bowls between 1974 and 2009. They applied statistical analyses to measure whether the annual influenza mortality rate rises in counties that have a team in that year’s Super Bowl or the county where the game is played (e.g. Houston). Examining multiple years of data is particularly helpful, because mortality rates in a championship team’s county can be compared to years when the team didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, and to concurrent influenza mortality in counties with an NFL team that were not in the Super Bowl that year.
The authors find that sending a team to the Super Bowl leads to an additional seven influenza deaths per million for those aged 65 and over in the team’s home county. This increase is 18 percent over the entire sample’s average of 40.7 reported influenza deaths per million elderly. When all ages were considered, there was no increase in the influenza mortality rate in a team’s home county – i.e. the effect on those 65 and over was diluted when the entire population was considered. This led to the conclusion that the spread of the influenza virus that occurs when people socialize during the Super Bowl and this spread is particularly dangerous to people over 65.
Surprisingly, the researchers find no increase in mortality around the Super Bowl for the hosting city. The author hypothesizes this is because the game has traditionally been held in warmer locales where the environment is less favorable for transmission. So what does this mean for Houston come February 2017? Can we forget the hand sanitizer and throw caution to the wind when going to a Super Bowl party? It’s probably better to play it safe than sorry. It’s the cities sending teams that need to be on the alert for a spike in need for influenza care. Perhaps we could get the NFL to pay for commercials encouraging people to get flu vaccinations and be very careful to wash their hands during Super Bowl parties in the conference championship cities. I’ve even got a commercial jingle: “Don’t get sacked at the Super Bowl. A flu shot is your best defense.”
Our new, national survey explores how patients and doctors believe we can work together to improve the nation's health care system. RSVP for our FREE discussion of the results Nov. 12 at the @TXMedCenter https://t.co/CPE6Li96NV #healthpolicy
Our new, national survey explores how patients and doctors believe we can work together to improve the nation's health care system. RSVP for our FREE discussion of the results Nov. 12 at the Texas Medical Center. https://t.co/PxrBf6RsR6 #healthpolicy https://t.co/2iezf0KXUT
What do consumers think of Medicare-for-all? How much do doctors want to get paid? And how can we REALLY fix U.S. health care for good? Hear the results of our annual survey Nov. 12 in Houston #healthpolicy https://t.co/CPE6Li96NV https://t.co/43OdNIyoKj
We'll be speaking with @KPRC2Khambrel at 10:30 a.m. this morning on @KPRC2 in Houston. Can't wait to share findings from our new book, "Exposing the Medical Myths: Why Everything You Know about Health Care Is Wrong and How We Can Make It Right." #healthpolicy
Thanks for hosting us, @KPRC2Khambrel ! Be sure to watch Houston Newsmakers on @KPRC2 at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. We'll discuss our brand new book, "Exposing the Medical Myths: Why Everything You Know about Health Care Is Wrong and How We Can Make It Right." #healthpolicy https://t.co/VMQOadhvIL
The big day is here! Join us TONIGHT in Houston at the @TXMedCenter for a discussion of our institute’s brand new book that busts myths about US health care. More info and free registration at https://t.co/MRV3Ns7nwe #healthpolicy
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An American MRI costs 14 times an Australian one. An American hip replacement costs 80% more than a British one. Why the big difference? Join us Oct. 15 in Houston to discuss: https://t.co/MRV3NsoYnM https://t.co/iwk3drB6dl
Our brand new book highlights 20 big, pervasive myths about U.S. health care policy. What would you include on the list? Tell us using #healthcaremyths and join us at our book event in Houston Oct. 15 https://t.co/MRV3Ns7nwe https://t.co/7vtyoXZVUq
One of the big myths about US health care is that if you have a job, you can get insurance. What do you think are other myths and misunderstandings about US health care? Join us and discuss Oct. 15 in Houston https://t.co/MRV3Ns7nwe #healthcaremyths https://t.co/2t8JeWGA9T
Our new book’s title is a mouthful because we want you to know exactly what it's about. Learn more about “Exposing the Twenty Medical Myths: Why Everything You Know about Health Care Is Wrong and How to Make It Right” and RSVP for our talk in Houston. https://t.co/MRV3Ns7nwe https://t.co/qcgOblvad9
If you think the market can fix health care, think again. Without perfect information & perfect competition, this will be a challenge. Learn more in our new book published by @RLPGBooks https://t.co/MRV3Ns7nwe #healthpolicy https://t.co/uDc2gqVNWM
How much of US health care spending is wasteful? 10 percent? 25 percent? Try nearly a THIRD. We’ll discuss why it's so much at a discussion of our new book in Houston Oct. 15 https://t.co/MRV3Ns7nwe https://t.co/PulyEJeeZz
“The best way to increase the physician supply is to decrease retirement,” says Tim Garson, director of the @TXMedCenter Health Policy Institute. Hear the rest of our discussion with @HoustonPubMedia about the looming doctor shortage: https://t.co/uEtgi1KokE #healthpolicy https://t.co/aYfvW7cwtt
If you think the uninsured get adequate health care through the ER, think again. We bust that myth — and many more — in our new book “Exposing the Twenty Medical Myths.” Join us Oct. 15 in Houston to learn more: https://t.co/MRV3Ns7nwe https://t.co/wGxkThYxxZ