Center for Health and Biosciences Programs

Domestic Health Policy Analysis

The Domestic Health Policy Analysis Program is a central component of the Center for Health and Biosciences. The Baker Institute is across the street from the Texas Medical Center (TMC), the nation’s largest medical complex. Drawing on the expertise of both Rice University and the TMC, this program offers a unique setting for medical and policy professionals to address issues of growing concern, including options for controlling skyrocketing medical costs, improving access to health care and managing the growing burden of diseases such as cancer and obesity. The program also provides objective analyses of health care reform proposals. The Domestic Health Policy Analysis program performs data-driven examinations of a wide variety of topics, including national health care reform, health care quality and efficiency, children’s health, health insurance coverage and complex medical technologies.

The program’s mission is to study the ways in which economic incentives and government policies influence the quality and costs of health care on a national and regional basis, focusing on the need to deliver high-quality medical care while controlling expenditures. In recent years, the program has received national acclaim for its research on state regulations on cardiac surgery, as well as for its analysis of the cost drivers of cancer care. Its work has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society and other nonprofit organizations.

Global Health

The Global Health Program examines the determinants and impact of health throughout the world, with a focus on neglected tropical diseases and the economics of health care policy in low-income settings. Areas of study include health and technology policy, maternal and child health, and the socioeconomic determinants of health in developing countries as well as wealthy countries such as the Group of 20 nations, where extreme poverty exists but is often overlooked.

In partnership with The National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, the Global Health Program aims to raise awareness of neglected diseases of poverty at home and abroad while promoting initiatives and policies designed to alleviate the needless suffering they cause. Neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, disproportionately affect those who live in extreme poverty. An estimated 1.4 billion people suffer from one or more NTDs globally, including as many as 12 million people in the U.S. NTDs promote a cycle of poverty by reducing economic capacity, increasing maternal mortality and impairing physical and intellectual development in children.

The Global Health Program is collaborating with bioengineers at the Rice 360º Institute for Global Health to evaluate the impact, sustainability and cost-effectiveness of 17 low-cost technologies for essential newborn care. This major initiative, called the “Nursery of the Future,” aims to reduce the preventable deaths of millions of neonates in Sub-Saharan Africa and developing countries.

More broadly, the program conducts and disseminates rigorous research on the health impact of major economic interventions and social policies. This work includes the study of the effect of economic regulations, such as minimum wage laws, on income, employment, the use of health services and the nutrition of mothers and children in low-income settings. The program also has a particular interest in identifying neglected but important structural determinants of health, such as war and religion, and the role of health care policy in light of such realities.

Biomedical Research

The Baker Institute Biomedical Research Program provides policymakers, scholars, scientists and the general public with research and analyses on emerging issues facing scientists and clinicians as biomedical research moves from laboratories to patients. The program addresses key areas, including the funding and sustainability of the U.S. biomedical research infrastructure; the ethical, political and regulatory challenges of emerging biomedical technologies; and the cost and benefits of bringing new and innovative treatments and therapies to clinics.

One major initiative of the Biomedical Research Program is the international stem cell policy program, which is funded by an endowment from the State of Qatar. The program brings together scientists, ethicists, policymakers, media experts and community and business leaders to find new ways to engage the general public in a dialogue on international stem cell policies, the ethical use of stem cells for research, and policy challenges associated with utilizing stem cell-based medical interventions. The program sponsors local events and lectures; workshops that bring together scholars and scientists from the international community; and major public policy research.