Harald Schmidt
  • Titles:
  • Assistant Professor of Medical Ethics & Health Policy
  • Research Associate, Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics
  • Senior Fellow, Leonard Davis Institute
  • Education:
  • London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom), PhD, Health & Public Policy
  • Kingdom), PhD, Health & Public Policy Universität Münster (Germany), MA, Philosophy

My research interests are centered around improving opportunity and reducing disadvantage for marginalized populations in health promotion and healthcare priority setting.

Policies aimed at promoting individual behavior, and those aiming at fair rationing or resource allocation, frequently share three features. They insufficiently consider structural and other forms of disadvantage, are overly optimistic about the choices people are able to make, and risk exacerbating existing inequities.  

Programs that seek to promote personal responsibility for health, such as wellness incentives, work requirements in Medicaid, or bans on hiring smokers, can lead to ‘victim blaming’, in which people are wrongly held accountable for factors that are beyond their control. Typically, affected communities are among societies’ most disadvantaged groups, and there are better ways of promoting their interests.   

In healthcare priority setting, a directly related set of issues arises.  For example, prioritizing clinical care at the expense of public health measures results in more benefits for the better off, and fewer for the worse off.  Dominant models of rationing ventilators or vaccines in emergency situations, likewise, allocate more benefits to those who already had more, and risk repeating and compounding existing disadvantage for those who had less to start with. 

My research combines conceptual and empirical work and seeks to provide constructive and workable proposals for genuinely improving equity in health promotion and healthcare priority setting. 

I am a Research Associate at the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics at Penn, a Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute, and a member of UNESCO’s Ethics Task Force. Before coming to Penn I was a Commonwealth Fund Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice at the Harvard School of Public Health, and for seven years served as Assistant Director of the U.K.’s Nuffield Council on Bioethics in London.

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