Private Choices, Social Costs, and Public Policy: An Economic Analysis of Public Health Issues

Private Choices, Social Costs, and Public Policy: An Economic Analysis of Public Health Issues

Private Choices, Social Costs, and Public Policy: An Economic Analysis of Public Health Issues

Private Choices, Social Costs, and Public Policy: An Economic Analysis of Public Health Issues

Synopsis

This data-rich work examines today's most compelling and controversial public health issues, including alcohol and drug abuse, AIDS, abortion, black and infant mortality, drug-affected babies, child abuse, teenage prenancy, and cigarette smoking. Hammerle's theme is that individual behavioral choices often have far-reaching and costly effects. When practiced by large numbers of people, the human and fiscal costs can be monumental, taxing virtually all our social systems as well as our financial resources. Hammerle enumerates these costs and, employing economic analytical tools, recommends public policies that will reduce the incidence of such behavior or otherwise reduce its social cost.

Excerpt

Six-year-old Lisa Steinberg was killed in November 1987. She died following a beating at the hands of her adoptive father, a beating that ended with her being picked up and thrown against a wall with such force that it left her brain- dead. the nation was horrified and grief-stricken.

In March 1989, as its hard-drinking skipper rested in his cabin, the Exxon Valdez ploughed into Bligh Reef off the coast of Alaska. the crash unleashed 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound and wreaked unparalleled environmental devastation. Hundred of thousands of animals were killed, the Alaskan fishing industry suffered a near-mortal blow, and the overall cost is so huge it has yet to be tallied. the cost to Exxon alone has exceeded $3 billion.

In May 1988 a pickup truck traveling in the wrong direction on an interstate highway in northern Kentucky collided with a church bus bringing teenagers back from an amusement park outing. Almost 30 people were killed and dozens were seriously injured in one of the worst roadway accidents in U.S. history. the truck driver was intoxicated; the victims were young; we were shocked at the loss.

A Florida dentist infected five of his patients with the AIDS-causing human immunodeficiency virus when he performed invasive dental procedures on them without due precautions in the late 1980s. Their visits to his office took place after the dentist had been informed he had aids. the news sounded an alarm that sent repercussions throughout our entire health care industry and raised our fear of aids to new heights.

These episodes sent our collective consciousness reeling and will remain part of our national memory for years to come. But while they are exceptional, these cases are far from unique. in the year Lisa Steinberg died almost 150 children were fatally abused in New York City alone; possibly as many as five thousand were killed nationwide. the Alaskan oil spill was but one of the hundreds of industrial accidents caused each year by substance-abusing employees. Impaired employees cost American business billions of dollars every year. the Kentucky . . .

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