Over summer, RVC has run an essay competition among RVC undergraduate veterinary medicine students. Students were encouraged to submit short essays on the topic Why do we need economics teaching in veterinary curricula? to win bursaries to attend the second annual NEAT meeting in Wageningen. These are the three winning essays:
Essay 1: Tom Andrew Hinchliffe, BVetMed5
A major proportion of undergraduates will enter first opinion veterinary practice, whether it be small animal, equine or farm; these are all business models one way or another. In order to succeed in business an appropriate knowledge of economics will be essential. In basic terms, economics is the study of allocation of resources for a desired outcome. Economics can consequently be directly visualised at the core of veterinary practice; a provision of a veterinary service for profit. Practicing veterinary medicine will use economics as a basis of many decisions, especially in farm animal medicine where maximising profit from animals is the ultimate goal. In my personal experience of veterinary undergraduate teaching, the area of economics has been seen almost as a side note to farm medicine lectures, yet upon seeing practice it was evident that economic advice to farmer clients comprised a substantial amount of the large animal vet’s workload. Furthermore, the business owners of every small animal and equine practice I visited had economic concerns at the forefront of their mind. It therefore seems logical that an area of science so integral to veterinary practice should be taught to veterinary undergraduates. As a result, I truly believe that animal health economic teaching should be part of veterinary curricula.
Essay2: Helena Catherine Diffey, BvetMed between year 3 and 4
Population growth, increasing affluence and demand for meat, urbanisation and globalisation has changed the landscape of food production considerably in recent years. The drive for more efficient, and therefore more intensive farming, along with the rise of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases has altered the role of the farm vet from individual animal medicine to preventative medicine.
With greater inputs and scale of production comes greater risks. Understanding of economic theory would provide vets with a basis for rational decision making that is economically as well as technically sound. Furthermore, it would enable vets to determine and communicate the economic benefits or costs of new scientific ideas and technologies that will contribute to future advancements in animal health and welfare.
Farming is an industry that is influenced heavily by the macroeconomics of economies globally. Appreciation of the socio-economic consequences of decisions made by vets to their clients and the wider economy is of utmost importance. Vets are well placed to positively influence the ‘one health’ field with a unique communications link between scientists, policy makers and local farming communities. A stronger understanding of economics would give vets greater confidence in decision making regarding animal health and more weight to their advice.
In conclusion, economics should be an essential component of any veterinary curricula. Even those working in the small animal sector will be working for or directing a small business where profitability is paramount. The future of veterinary medicine relies on maintaining its relevance to the consumer who is increasingly economically driven. Moreover, a better grasp of economics would enable the veterinary profession to make a greater contribution to global development.
Essay 3: Katriina Jenni Elisabeth Willgert, BVetMed4
Veterinary medicine is a dynamic field with new research and technologies becoming available continuously. With available resources being limited, continuous evaluation of existing options and prioritisation is essential. Economics can be used as a tool for decision making and resource allocation of health services, both at the local clinic as well as at a national and international level.
For appropriate decision making, the cost and benefit of a service needs to be understood. At a governmental level, economic assessments allows for transparency and effective targeting. Basic tools, such as cost-benefit assessments, provide an overview which can be used as an incentive for long term interventions and investments, facilitating evidence-based policy development.
With increasing production costs and competition from other Member States of the European Union, cost-effective farm management and prioritisation of preventable health issues is increasingly important for farmers. Knowledge in economics allows for creativity in new business ideas while developing a long-term relationship with the client. The large animal veterinarian could, for example, offer a holistic herd level approach to clients where alternative health interventions and their benefits are compared, taking into consideration costs, productivity and other parameters, such as welfare, according to the farmer’s needs and consumer demand.
There are several situations in which animal health economics could be applied more effectively within the veterinary sector, including the small animal practice where the use of economic assessments remains to reach its full potential. For this change to happen, future veterinarians need to have an understanding of the field and actively consider economics in their decision making.