Paul Gertler Wins International Award for Contributions to Global Health

Professor Paul Gertler, who has spent the past 16 years studying how financial incentives can improve health care, was recognized March 7 by the Mexican National Institutes of Health for his contributions in Mexico and around the world.

Gertler received the Juan Jose Bobadilla Medal for Global Health at the 15th International Congress of Research in Public Health in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Gertler was the first economist to win the annual award, which is typically given to medical professionals or epidemiologists.

"I think they're recognizing that improving public health is more than just improving medical care," Gertler said. "Much of the focus on improving health in low-income countries is focused on improving technology. But for that we need financial incentives in order to get the most out of medical technologies."

Gertler delivered a keynote address at the conference titled "Pay for Performance: Theory, Evidence, and Relevance," in which he explained how bonus payments to medical facilities can be used to improve health care performance and productivity throughout Mexico. He also presented evidence from research he previously conducted in Rwanda and Argentina. The payments, which are funded by governments or insurance plans, reward providers based upon a customized set of metrics.

The essence of this approach, Gertler explained, is about improving efficiency and ensuring that quality keeps pace with capability. "Rather than pouring more money into the health care system, the question is, 'Can we get providers to do a better job with what they have?'" he said.

Gertler is the Li Ka Shing Foundation Chair in Health Management, director of Haas' Institute of Business and Economics Research, and faculty director of the Graduate Program in Health Services Management.