For Asif Khowaja, the COVID-19 pandemic became a vivid illustration of his research area, which is found at the intersection of health and economics.
From government spending on testing and vaccines to out-of-pocket health-care expenses incurred by Canadians and the financial impact of wide-spread absences due to illness or regulations, the pandemic cost the economy dearly, says the Brock University Assistant Professor of Health Sciences.
“During the pandemic, Canadians started to see the extent to which health-care decisions affect their everyday lives,” says Khowaja. “Understanding the costs and economic impacts of health care is not new, but now we’re realizing the importance of assessing these in every sphere of life.”
Khowaja’s passion for research, mentoring and forming partnerships in the health-care field has earned him Brock University’s 2023 Award for Early Career Research and Creative Activity.
“Dr. Khowaja’s expertise in health economics is a huge asset to an area of remarkable research strength at Brock,” says Vice-President, Research Tim Kenyon. “His scholarship, community outreach and innovative teaching methods are contributing great knowledge to a subject that is of increasing concern to Canadians.”
Khowaja joined Brock in 2020 after earning his PhD from the University of British Columbia and a postdoctoral fellowship with the British Columbia Patient Safety and Quality Council. His earlier research examined the costs and cost-effectiveness of emerging health technologies for maternal, newborn and child health in several African and Asian countries.
Currently, he studies the broader socio-economic impacts of community-based interventions; health-care costs for patients, caregivers and those in the health-care system; and the economics of maternal, newborn and child health programs in Canada and abroad.
Highlights of Khowaja’s recent research include:
- Assessing the cost effectiveness of Niagara Health’s Pediatric Tele-resuscitation program.
- Evaluating Community Support Services of Niagara’s Snow Buddies Program in which volunteers clear snow from older adults’ walkways and driveways.
- Determining the economic impact of injuries in Canada Games competitions over the past decade.
- Co-developing health economics learning modules and online practical exercises for sepsis research at Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda.
Khowaja is also recognized for mentoring 15 Brock students and developing two new courses: Health Economics and Economics for Public Health. He was chosen as one of a half-dozen faculty in the inaugural Faculty Champion program designed to support, inspire and advance experiential learning across the University.
In his classroom teaching, Khowaja uses innovative techniques such as the “Guess Who?” game, which sees students identify public health officials from photographs and articles in news media.
Khowaja says he is excited to be receiving the Award for Early Career Research and Creative Activity.
“This award belongs to my students and trainees,” he says. “The funding from this award will be spent on hiring additional student support to do more research work in Canada and on global health projects.”
The $5,000 Award for Early Career Research and Creative Activity recognizes researchers holding a full-time academic appointment for five years or less for research excellence, including: notable contributions to creative activity or research; emerging record of refereed and/or significant publications or creative works or performances appropriate for the nominee’s career stage; training and mentoring of students and post-doctoral researchers; and funding from external sources such as granting agencies, foundations or contracts.