The collected writings of David Levy, professor of economics in the Merrick School of Business, reads like a bibliography of international public-health insight and understanding. Levy’s expertise has made him a rarity in the field of public-health policy research and model-building: he has done research in more than 20 countries, as well as for numerous domestic organizations, and has delved into some of the most controversial topics in all of public-health research, including tobacco regulation and obesity. By the end of next year, he expects to have completed work for at least 20 more countries, as his status as an authority on the economics of health care keeps international policymakers listening.
“I am an economist with a background in political philosophy,” Levy says. “My multi-disciplinary approach is one of the reasons I have been successful. I believe in the value of the many social sciences and bring in people from different disciplines to complement each other.”
In particular, Levy is interested in the role of marketing in public health policy, which is too often overlooked. Indeed, making sure that no stone is left unturned is a hallmark of his approach.
Three years ago, Levy received a grant through the University of Baltimore, funded by the American Cancer Society, to begin a model-building program regarding tobacco use in Albania. After visiting the country and meeting with various advocates for tobacco policy and collecting the relevant data, Levy presented a workable model for the country’s future development of public-health policy regarding tobacco use. After two years, he conducted a follow-up on the project – and determined that the policies had not had as much effect as his model predicted.
“I don’t view that as something negative to my model. It is a chance to ask ‘What more needed to be done?’ or ‘What wasn’t done?’” Levy says. “I view the model as an ongoing process. The model is a comprehensive view of systems, how different policies work, how they affect different parts of the population and how they translate over time. We will see in later review of Albania how the systems work over time.”
A professor at UB for more than 16 years, Levy has received acclaim by several local and regional organizations. He earned the 2005 University System of Maryland Board of Regents Research Award; is a four-time recipient of the University of Baltimore Research Award; and received the Federal Trade Commission’s Outstanding Scholarship Award in 1988.
This year alone, Levy has published in the American Journal of Public Health and the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, both top publications in their field and both frequently referenced by the federal government in shaping public health policies. Also this year, his work appeared in the Obesity Review, Addiction, and Tobacco Control.
Levy’s economic scholarship on the domestic front is consistently matched by his work overseas. And his commitment there is a personal one.
“My work in other countries has enabled me to be a teacher,” he says. “I work with low- and middle-income countries and help them to understand public health policies and what works effectively. It also helps researchers in those countries to publish work about their country’s policies in high quality journals.”
As for his future projects in public-health policy, Levy is stoic. “I encourage those that I work with internationally to be first authors on many of these papers,” he says. “Another publication isn’t going to do much for me at this point, unless it’s in a notable journal or it’s a vehicle for change.”
Affecting change is a chief goal of any type of academic scholarship, and from that perspective, Levy is one of Merrick’s shining lights.
About the article's author: Andrew Keating is a graduate student in the University of Baltimore's Creative Writing and Publishing Arts program. He is currently working on projects with Dennis Pitta, professor and chair of the Merrick School of Business' Department of Marketing and Entrepreneurship.