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Dr. Luc Clair

Dr. Luc Clair

Principal Investigator
Ag/Health Economist, Canadian Centre for Agri-food Research In Health and Medicine

Assistant Professor
Department of Economics, University of Winnipeg

Research Focus

  • Health technology assessment: The process of determining the effectiveness of a given health care intervention (surgery, drug, diet, supplement, test, etc.) compared to the status quo.
  • Health care equity: Determining whether health care resources are being used in a fair manner across individuals in the health care system. Typically, we want to observe that health care resources are being allocated based need, not one’s ability to pay for it. Dr. Clair hopes to identify barriers to the health care system and propose solutions to correct for any inequities.
  • Nonparametric econometrics: The sub-discipline of economics using statistical methods to estimate economic models is known as econometrics. In most cases, economists are interested in estimating the conditional relationship between two variables, e.g. how does age affect the number of hours you spend with a doctor in a given year? In order to simplify the analysis of these problems, economists assume the variables follow a particular functional form and base their results on this assumption, e.g. age has quadratic relationship to number of hours spent with a doctor. If this assumption is correct – great! If not, the resulting estimates are untrustworthy. Nonparametric methods make no functional form assumptions and let the data “speak for themselves” to return more trustworthy results.
  • Analysis of survey data: Generally, the only datasets that have information on all aspects of an individual including their health, health care utilization, socioeconomic, and demographic information are from surveys (as opposed to administrative or clinical datasets). Often times, the way this data is collected (the sampling methods used) must be taken into account when analyzing the data. Dr. Clair seeks to develop nonparametric econometric methods for analyzing survey data.

Why is this work important?

Dr. Clair’s primary role at CCARM is to estimate the economic impact of proposed interventions on the health care sector, the agricultural, and agri-food sector. The goal of CCARM’s clinical and basic science research is to study disease processes, investigate the therapeutic properties of functional foods and natural health products, and develop safe interventions (diet, supplements, etc.) that will improve the health of the Canadian public. Dr. Clair’s work supports this research by looking at the cost-effectiveness of these interventions once implemented outside of the research setting and in the general public and health care system.

Both the health care system and the agricultural industry have to manage a finite amount of resources in order to produce goods and services. Developing a new health care intervention using functional foods or nutraceuticals has big implications for both sectors of the economy. After an intervention has shown to have beneficial health properties in clinical trials, we must ask important questions about its implementation in the real world.

  1. How does a new therapy change the allocation of the factors of production (labour, equipment, etc.) in the health care system? Does it reduce the amount of health care resources needed to deliver the same health outcomes as the status quo?
  2. If individuals are made healthier by this intervention, how does that change overall productivity in the economy?
  3. How will news of this intervention change the demand for the food item or the natural health product?
  4. How will the agri-food industry’s production decisions change due to this intervention? Will it be worth it to re-allocate resources to produce more of the given food or natural health product?

Finding interventions that reduce health care costs will allow policy makers to re-allocate health care resources and develop a more efficient system. If news of the intervention changes consumer behaviour to purchase healthier items, the agricultural industry will work to meet this demand and in-turn, help alleviate pressure on the health care system. Dr. Clair seeks to answer these questions using a mixture of cost-benefit analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis, and cost-utility analysis.

In collaboration with CCARM clinical and basic science researchers, Dr. Clair’s secondary role is to develop economic models to study issues related to determinants of health, health care equity, and health care utilization. Dr. Clair provides the statistical expertise to investigate these problems while CCARM researchers advise him on variables to include in these models. As an example, to estimate the effect of poor heart health on the use of anti-dementia medications, Dr. Clair is working with two pharmacologists who can explain the pathophysiological processes between heart health and brain health while he implements the statistical methods to analyze the data. Identifying a causal statistical relationship between poor heart health and the use of anti-dementia medications would provide health care professionals with a starting point for the treatment of dementia, reducing the burden of this disease on the health care system. Multi-disciplinary research to identify determinants of health and barriers to health care services will lead to a more equitable and effective health care system in Canada.

What techniques and equipment are used in this laboratory?

The statistical software most commonly used are STATA and R.

About Dr. Luc Clair

Dr. Clair holds a B.Sc. in Pure Mathematics and Economics and a Master of Arts in Economics from Memorial University of Newfoundland. He completed his PhD in Economics from McMaster University in 2017 where his thesis developed advanced methods for analyzing survey data and applied these methods to investigate issues related to health care equity. In addition to his work at CCARM, he is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Winnipeg.

For more information, please contact:
Dr. Luc Clair
Ph. (204) 235-3938