The Health Economists’ Study Group, popularly known as HESG, exists to support and promote the work of health economists. It was founded in 1972 and is therefore the oldest organisation of its type in health economics and remains one of the largest. It is based in the UK, but this does not restrict its membership and interests. Of its 450 members, around 10% are outside the UK.

HESG has been an important part of the development of health economics in the UK (and elsewhere). It celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1997 with a special meeting, the invited papers for which are published in Health Economics, August 1998, Volume 7, supplement 1. It was the initiative of a group of economists at York University and was organised from there by Tony Culyer for the first 13 years of its life. The current joint-organisers are Dr Rachel Meacock at University of Manchester and Prof Nils Gutacker at University of York.

The group is intended for health economists rather than more generally for people interested in health economics. Although the group has an academic function – the creation and transmission of knowledge and ideas – its members work in commercial, academic and government settings and its concerns are applied and policy orientated as well as theoretical.

How the group works

The group has two main functions. It acts as a network, via an electronic mailing list and this website, and organises meetings at which academic and policy relevant papers are discussed. There are two meetings per year, held at different locations in the UK, Ireland and occasionally elsewhere, each of which attracts 120-150 participants.

Group meetings have a distinctive style and feel, attempting to maintain a study group atmosphere despite large numbers. All papers are pre-circulated and discussed in hour-long sessions using discussants rather than author presentations. The range of papers reflects the current balance of work, the largest categories being economic evaluation, health outcome measurement and the finance and organisation of health care. However, every meeting has papers on other recognisably traditional economics subjects such as consumer demand, industry behaviour (particularly hospitals and pharmaceutical companies) and behaviour of the labour market. HESG welcomes people from a variety of backgrounds at our meetings, but they are intended for economists and its ‘working language’ is economics.

The group determines its own policies, procedures and activities at business meetings held at each meeting, which all members can attend, participate and vote. The only “officials” are the group joint-organisers, whose job is to ensure that the organisation runs well and that the wishes of the membership are carried out.