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Valuing well-being alongside health: What can and should be done?

Project Description

We are offering up to two fully-funded, full-time, 3.5 year PhD studentships in Health Economics. We will provide the successful student with the opportunity to study in an area of health economics of direct relevance to the work of the Policy Research Unit (PRU). You will be based in the section of Health Economics and Decision Science (HEDS) which is part of the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), at the University of Sheffield.
You will be supervised by a team from within the PRU in conjunction with others from ScHARR. The supervisory team will be selected to reflect the research interests and expertise necessary, according to the chosen PhD topic. We will also involve advisors from the Department of Health and Social Care as part of your supervisory team.

Health preferences inform resource allocation decisions around which treatments are recommended for use on the basis of their relative cost-effectiveness. Typically, generic preference-based measures of health that can be used across all conditions are used to generate quality adjusted life years (QALYs) to inform cost-effectiveness analyses. The QALY combines both quantity and quality of life by assigning a value to quality of life on a 0 (for states as bad as being dead) to 1 (for full health) scale, where values below 0 indicate that the state is worse than being dead. A generic preference-based measure of health consists of: 1) a classification system that is used to describe the health of a person and 2) a value set that generates a utility value that reflects how good or bad people think living in the health state would be.

Recent research has focussed on widening the classification system used to measure health to capture aspects beyond health to focus on domains such as quality of life. This presents challenges for the methods used to elicit utility values and the scope of the QALY itself and its role in informing cost-effectiveness analyses. Research challenges remain around the valuation of measures including: whose preferences to use (patients or general public); which elicitation technique to use; data collection mode; selection of states for valuation; how to aggregate and use these preferences to inform decisions around healthcare resource allocation.

This PhD will contribute to methodological developments and understanding in the area of eliciting preferences for states that combine both health and wellbeing. The PhD will involve a literature review and primary research using a mixed methods approach involving both qualitative and quantitative research. The student will initially conduct a literature review of valuation methodology to inform the primary data collection. Qualitative work involving interviewers and/or focus groups will be undertaken to explore appropriate elicitation techniques and protocols, and whose preferences to use. Informed by the results of the qualitative work, a larger valuation survey will be conducted to further explore appropriate techniques and data collection mode.

This project will be contributing methodological research to the Extending the QALY project, which is developing a broad measure of quality of life for use in economic evaluations across health and social care The Extending the QALY project is funded by a Medical Research Council Industry Collaboration Award with the Euroqol Group.

The proposed start date for the project is 1 January 2020, at the latest.

Entry Requirements:
Candidates must have a first or upper second class honors degree, and a Merit at masters or significant research experience.

How to apply:
Please complete a University Postgraduate Research Application form available here:
Please clearly state the title of the studentship, the prospective main supervisor and select ScHARR as the department.
You will also need to include:
• a covering letter explaining why you wish to apply for this studentship.
• a copy of your CV.

Funding Notes

Research Council Doctoral Stipend rate (currently £15,009 for the year 2019/20). In addition, there is an annual Research Training Support Grant of £750 to cover other expenses such as conference attendance, training courses, equipment and books.

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