Spotlight on Research at COPH – Dr. Wilson studies public health issues using econometrics. Econometrics brings together economics, mathematics, and statistics to analyze data. This type of analysis allows researchers to test theories, forecast outcomes, and evaluate policies. Currently, Dr. Wilson is principal investigator for a project examining the effectiveness of state distracted driving policies in decreasing motor vehicle injuries and fatalities. This work is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Public Health Law Research program. Driving while distracted has become a high profile threat to road safety in recent years with the proliferation of cell phones and other mobile electronic devices, resulting in thousands of fatalities every year. However, designing and enforcing policies to effectively discourage drivers from using electronic devices while driving has been difficult. For example, there is little evidence that bans on texting while driving have been effective in curbing this behavior. Dr. Wilson’s study seeks to analyze which policies work to reduce crashes from distracted driving and, if a policy is not working, to determine how it can be improved.
Econometric techniques may also shed new light on long-standing problems in public health and health services research. For example, policies that restrict access to health care and other services by immigrants have been—and will continue to be—points of contention among state and federal policymakers. The unauthorized immigrant population in particular is notoriously difficult to study, and thus, inferences about their impact on the US health care system are largely speculative. Yet knowledge of this impact is an important but missing component of the policy debate surrounding immigration reform and immigrant access to health insurance exchanges in the Affordable Care Act. By using sophisticated econometric analysis with nationally representative data on immigrants, Drs. Jim Stimpson, Dejun Su and Wilson were able to predict health care utilization and expenditures for the unauthorized immigrant population in the United States, thus providing an important contribution to the policy debate. Results from this study were recently published in Health Affairs.
Dr. Wilson joined UNMC in January 2013. He received a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago and BA in economics from the University of Texas at Austin. He has worked in public health since 2006.
Fernando Wilson, PhD, is an associate professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Health Services Research and Administration.