Established in 2014, the Division of Health Policy engages teams of highly collaborative scholars and physicians who are leaders in their respective fields, enabling research that is innovative across a broad range of health policy areas. The Division’s interdisciplinary faculty are experts in fields as wide-ranging as behavioral economics, food policy, health economics, and the use of advanced health data analytics to improve health care delivery. Many faculty members serve as advisors to federal, state, and international organizations. The Division of Health Policy is globally distinguished by both the expertise of its faculty and its innovative academic programs. The world-renowned Penn Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE) has its home within the division, conducting groundbreaking research in the application of behavioral economics to health care.
The Division contains a mixture of faculty from the Perelman School of Medicine and from across the University of Pennsylvania. These faculty create a unique interdisciplinary research environment and are supporting the first online Master’s program at the University of Pennsylvania. The Masters of Health Care Innovation is part of a full complement of online educational offerings within the Division, allowing health care professionals from across the globe to engage with internationally-recognized faculty to lead high-impact health care innovation.
The Division of Health Policy provides an academic home to the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE). CHIBE faculty design, implement, and evaluate behavioral economic interventions to improve patient health behaviors, chronic disease management, physician payment models, and much more. The Center’s research makes a significant contribution to reducing the disease burden from major U.S. public health problems such as tobacco dependence, obesity, and medication non-adherence.
The Psychology of Eating And Consumer Health (PEACH) lab, housed in the Division of Health Policy, studies public health interventions and policies designed to improve diets and to prevent and reduce obesity and eating disorders. Led by Dr. Christina Roberto, the PEACH lab’s research provides policymakers and institutions with science-based guidance to create and improve food policy.
The Opportunity for Health Lab, directed by Dr. Atheendar Venkataramani, is dedicated to understanding how the American Dream affects America’s health and identifying ways to help bolster both economic opportunity and health. The lab's research uses advanced statistical techniques and new data on economic opportunity—and the events and policies that shape it—to achieve these goals.
Research on Aging
The Population Aging Research Center (PARC), co-led by one of our faculty members Dr. Norma Coe, leads interdisciplinary research on the demography and economics of aging, including a focus on diverse and often underrepresented populations domestically and globally. Some of the center’s areas of research are: health care and long-term care in older adults, cognition and Alzheimer's and related dementia, health disparities in aging, early life-conditions and older adult health, behavior and well-being, and global aging and health.
Research in Developing Countries
The Penn Development Research Initiative (PDRI) brings together faculty and graduate students from 7 schools across the University of Pennsylvania whose research seeks to identify solutions to the challenges facing developing countries. PDRI seeks to foster impactful international development research by harnessing the expertise of its affiliates from various disciplines and utilizing diverse methodological approaches. Under the directorship of Dr. Guy Grossman (Political Science, School of Arts and Sciences) and Dr. Harsha Thirumurthy (Health Policy, Perelman School of Medicine), PDRI serves as a launchpad for extramurally-funded research projects that include collaborations with international NGOs, local NGOs, and government agencies while also serving as an intellectual hub for Penn faculty and graduate students conducting research in developing countries.
Our research in this area explores the role of factors such as nutrition, pain, and sleep in shaping economic productivity, cognitive function, and decision-making. Partnering with the Institute for Financial Management and Research and faculty from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, our faculty runs a behavioral economics lab in Chennai, India, investigating the impact of health factors on economic wellbeing and decision-making, ranging from savings rates to consumption patterns.
Our researchers make significant contributions to the field of health economics, exploring the influence of medical care and health practices on outcomes and cost. Specifically, faculty affiliated with our Division examine the economics of the physician workforce, access to health insurance coverage, informal caregiving for patients with Alzheimer's disease, and appropriate design of Medicare in a budget-constrained environment. Insight from our faculty’s work was instrumental to the design of the Affordable Care Act and plays a key role in continuing discussions around health care design. The work of our Division is closely connected with the University of Pennsylvania’s Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics.
Researchers in our Division explore opportunities to use machine learning to predict clinical decisions and develop computer algorithms that would increase the value of health care and reduce disparities in care. Errors in human judgment are a major contributor to both low-value care and health care disparities. Our faculty examine ways to develop predictive analytic tools that can be used for earlier detection of complications in inpatient settings, better prediction of hospital readmissions and earlier detection of sepsis.
Health Care Innovation
Faculty members in the Division of Health Policy are experts in health care innovation, reimagining health care delivery for better patient outcomes and higher value. Through the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation, our researchers employ a disciplined, rapid approach to creating, evaluating, and implementing new strategies – such as the mobile health platform Way to Health - to tackle challenging health care dilemmas. The work of our faculty in this domain focuses on improving patient quality of life, leveraging connected health, reducing the cost of care, and encouraging the adoption of innovative methods by health systems.
Amol Navathe, MD, PhD, launched the Payment Insights Team, an interdisciplinary team of experts based in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania that uses insights from economics and behavioral science to analyze existing policy effects and design, test, and evaluate financial and non-financial interventions that can improve care in pragmatic, real-world settings.
Our faculty have been heavily involved in research and guidance surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020. Our Medical Ethics & Health Policy faculty have provided their expertise on everything from financial incentives to increase vaccine uptake, to equitable ways to distribute the vaccine in the United States and abroad, vaccine mandates, the FDA approval process, and more. Learn about some of our projects here, or find COVID-19-related media on our News page. In addition, you can find resources on our Online Education “Policy, Ethics, and COVID-19” page.