Associate Professor Kenny Lawson

Kenny Lawson
Research Program:

What are your research interests?

  • Enhancing the value of the health system: The demands on the health sector (e.g. prevention, curative, palliative) outstrip the supply of resources (e.g. budgets, people, technology, time). This scarcity of resources requires prioritization decisions to be made from health planners (e.g. what gets funded) to clinicians (e.g. who gets treated and how). By incorporating cost effectiveness analysis alongside trials, and embedding priority setting practices in management processes, economics can support planners and clinicians make decisions and better improve the efficiency of delivery, effectiveness of patient outcomes and overall equity in the population.  
  • Operationalising the social determinants of health (SDH): The health sector largely responds to individual patient needs while other sectors (e.g. urban planning, education) impact on the ability of the general population to maintain and enhance well-being, and so prevent people from becoming patients. Investing in the SDH can lead to a healthier and wealthier society leading to reduced pressures on the health sector and opportunities for greater funding from a more productive economy.  Health economics can play an important role to influence Treasury and other sectors to systematically consider the health impacts of non-health sectors in budget allocation and decision-making.

What impact does your work have on research?

  • Demonstrating the real-world value of research: The thrust of HMRI is to conduct world leading research that is calibrated on real-world impact. Health economics is directly aligned with this goal. As part of a team of economists, I work alongside innovative researchers at all stages of the research pipeline: from idea generation, basic science, pilots, trials, and implementation. By working collaboratively with researchers we co-produce trial designs and implementation studies to ensure the right information is collected on costs and outcomes. This ensures a rigorous assessment can be made on the cost effectiveness and affordability of novel interventions and services.
  • Supporting the allocation of funding to researchers: Funders also have a challenging role in prioritising which research proposals to finance from limited budgets. I have an interest in developing techniques to support this priority setting process by calibrating funding decisions towards those projects that have the greatest likelihood of being successfully completed and implemented. The health economics team have developed the FAIT tool to support the assessment of value from research. This tool is being constantly improved as we ‘learn-by-doing’. In this sense, working with HMRI researchers also leads to positive feedbacks into my work to improve our approaches and methods.   

What would be the ultimate goal for your research?

Improve population health and intergenerational equity: This high-level goal can only be operationalised by working with similarly minded colleagues.   Intermediate objectives are to raise the awareness, application, and use of health economics in inter-disciplinary research and decision-making. HMRI has a terrific mix of researchers and practitioners, and close working with policymakers at all levels. This ultimate goal can be operationalized as we foster relationships. It is as much a human process as it is a technical one.

Biography

Kenny joined HMRI in May 2019 as part of the research health economics team. He has a BA(Hons) in Economics (Strathclyde), an MSc in Health Economics (York/Bergen), and a PhD in Health Economics (Glasgow). He entered academia in 2010 and has had appointments in Scotland (Glasgow University, and the Medical Research Council, Social and Public Health Sciences Unit), James Cook University (CRE for Chronic Disease Prevention), and Western Sydney University (Translation Health Research Institute). Prior to academia he worked for 10 years as an applied economist internationally, including Government (e.g. United Kingdom, Tanzania, Guatemala), and the private sector (Royal Bank of Scotland, Oxford Economics, freelance consultancy).

Kenny has a conjoint appointment as Assoc. Professor at the University of Newcastle. He has published in a wide range of clinical and policy areas, including: cardiovascular disease, multimorbidity, neuropathy, housing. This has included leading journals, such as The Lancet, HEART, and BMC Medicine.  Further, he has led and co-authored methodological guidance in economic evaluation, including the latest MRC Guidance on identifying ‘natural experiments’ to evaluate policy changes. 

Specialised/Technical Skills

  • Economic evaluation (cost effectiveness, cost utility, cost benefit)
  • Budget impact analysis and implementation science
  • Value of information analysis to support research priorities
  • Priority setting processes to support health planners use evidence.
  • Decision analytical modelling
  • Dynamic modelling (System dynamics, Agent based modelling)
  • Outcome valuation (especially, Capability approach)

Affiliations

  • Conjoint A/Professor – School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle
  • Adjunct A/Professor – Translational Health Research Institute - Western Sydney University
  • The Sydney Partnership for Health, Education, Research and Enterprise (SPHERE)
  • Australian Health Economics Society (AHES)
  • International Health Economics Association (iHEA)
  • Visiting scholar – Medical Research Council, UK, and Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland