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Drs. Buttenheim and Volpp Named to NASEM Consensus Committee on Behavioral Economics

alison buttenheim and kevin volpp
Alison and kevin

The new National Academies Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) consensus committee on “future directions for applying behavioral economics to policy” has appointed two University of Pennsylvania faculty members who are both part of CHIBE’s leadership team.

CHIBE’s Scientific Director and Penn Associate Professor of Nursing Alison Buttenheim, PhD, MBA, is serving as co-chair and CHIBE Director Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD, is a committee member.

“It’s terrific to see CHIBE’s leadership in this space recognized with two committee appointments,” Dr. Buttenheim said.

The committee seeks to review insights from behavioral economics to see how they could be leveraged in public policy objectives related to issues such as public health, chronic illness, economic well-being, and climate change. The members will create a report that should ideally inform funding strategies, research priorities, and evidence synthesis and dissemination for the next 5-10 years.

“There have been a lot of demonstrations of how interventions based on concepts from behavioral economics can be effective,” Dr. Volpp said. “In some cases these programs have been scaled by a variety of organizations. This is a good time to take stock of progress – where new scientific advances are needed and where a systematic look at what has been scaled and what hasn’t could lead to improvements in health or health care.”

NASEM consensus committees are sponsored by outside organizations interested in the rigor and objectivity that the National Academies consensus committee process can bring to important questions. In this case, the sponsors are the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

“The sponsors are motivated by the volume of behavioral science research that has been generated over the past 20 years and are eager to glean lessons about what works best from that accumulating evidence: what kinds of solutions, for what types of populations and problems?” Dr. Buttenheim explained.

The committee will also consider what lessons can be learned from unsuccessful applications of behavioral economics, as well as examine how behavioral economics intersects with other fields such as cognitive psychology, social psychology, and decision sciences. It will also look at ethical issues that might occur when applying behavioral economics in health, political influence efforts, or commercial marketing.

“As a behavioral science researcher who both generates and uses this evidence, I am excited to help address the committee’s charge,” Dr. Buttenheim said. “As a field, we need to ensure that our research optimizes impact. I’m honored to be co-chairing a National Academies consensus committee for the first time.”

Co-chairing the committee with Dr. Buttenheim is labor economist Robert Moffitt, PhD, from Johns Hopkins.

“[Dr. Moffitt and I] have very complementary training, expertise and perspectives,” Dr. Buttenheim said. “The committee includes several other economists, as well as psychologists, behavioral scientists, physicians, and even an expert in financial wellness and family economics, Dr. Angela Fontes. This interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary perspective will be critical to the committee’s work.”

Learn more on the NASEM website.