Doctoral Student Birmingham Brings Economic OutlookPosted Feb. 5, 2014
Most everyone today, whether in public health or not, is keeping an eye on the rollout of universal healthcare through the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the extension of Medicaid being offered now by 25 U.S. states. New doctoral student Lauren Birmingham, MA ’10, BBA ’09, BA ‘09, is watching the development especially closely. A healthcare economist, she’s recently enrolled in the college to burnish her credentials in health policy and management. Her main research interest is the effect of health insurance incentives on consumer consumption behavior and health outcomes.
Birmingham is brimming with questions to answer through research and analysis of the compulsory insurance rollout: “What’s going to be the impact on overall medical expenditures? Will the previously uninsured spend more? Will they discontinue using the emergency room for primary care? “What are the most cost-effective interventions that lead to good outcomes?” Birmingham contemplates. “For example, reducing reliance on the ER for primary care is one of the ways to bend the cost curve, but some studies show that once insured, people use the ER more,” she observes.
Birmingham has been working full-time in the strategic planning department of Summa Health System for a year and continues there part-time. She supports and coordinates a variety of corporate/business development activities, including strategic planning, service line development, internal/external volume analysis, competitive intelligence and market research. Her most recent work involves process improvement and reporting and visualization of data. “For instance, I’ve been on projects assessing the impact of Summa’s Center for Health Equity on its target population; examining behavioral health interventions and the effect of outcomes; and providing statistical support for a descriptive study examining male breast cancer,” she says.
She previously spent two years working at Case Western Reserve University on the Child Health Excellence Center – a University-Practice-Public-Partnership (CHEC-UPPP) study, through Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital. This investigation focused on improving the health of Ohio's children in three target areas: prevention of dental decay, detection and management of obesity and screening for lead exposure.
While she considered other institutions for her graduate study, Birmingham says that her past Kent State educational experience, combined with Kent’s affordable cost, “gave her a really good feeling” about choosing the College of Public Health. Birmingham appreciates that many of the college’s faculty members “had jobs outside of academia,” as she envisions doing likewise upon completion of her studies. She observes that “it’s terrific to get real-world applications in her classes, which means much more than reading about theories in a textbook.”