Cover: Three Essays on Health Behaviors and the Need for New Policy

Three Essays on Health Behaviors and the Need for New Policy

Published Oct 15, 2009

by Yang Lu

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This dissertation consists of three essays, each on one emerging public health issue that calls for new policy making. The first essay studies 15,000 adult individuals from a longitudinal dataset, the China Health and Nutrition Survey, collected in China 1991-2006. It explores the effects of food prices on obesity and shows evidence that while obesity corresponds to food prices changes, the effects might not always be accurately captured by Body Mass Index (BMI), but by a more direct measure of body fat – triceps skinfold thickness (TSF). The second essay extends the first essay and focuses on health implications of obesity on outcomes such as hypertension and diabetes. The sample is limited to non-obese individuals with a BMI less than 28. TSF, as a proxy for body fat, is shown to have significant independent effects on health. The third essay looks at unintended consequences of a new drug innovation, Viagra, and its successors, Cialis, and Levitra. It finds that erectile dysfunction (ED) medication users have a higher rate of STDs. Because most ED drug consumers are 40+ males, who are above the typical age range where routine STD tests are recommended, this finding reveals a new health threat to older populations and potentially the general public as a whole.

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This document was submitted as a dissertation in September 2009 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The faculty committee that supervised and approved the dissertation consisted of Dana Goldman (Chair), Jeffrey Wasserman, and Jeanne Ringel.

This publication is part of the RAND dissertation series. Pardee RAND dissertations are produced by graduate fellows of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, the world's leading producer of Ph.D.'s in policy analysis. The dissertations are supervised, reviewed, and approved by a Pardee RAND faculty committee overseeing each dissertation.

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