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Journal Article

Developing an integrated microsimulation model for the impact of fiscal policies on child health in Europe: the example of childhood obesity in Italy

Authors

Publication date

30 Nov 2021

Summary

Background:
We developed an integrated model called Microsimulation for Income and Child Health (MICH) that provides a tool for analysing the prospective effects of fiscal policies on childhood health in European countries. The aim of this first MICH study is to evaluate the impact of alternative fiscal policies on childhood overweight and obesity in Italy.
Methods:
MICH model is composed of three integrated modules. Firstly, module 1 (M1) simulates the effects of fiscal policies on disposable household income using the tax-benefit microsimulation program EUROMOD fed with the Italian EU-SILC 2010 data. Secondly, module 2 (M2) exploits data provided by the Italian birth cohort called Nascita e Infanzia: gli Effetti dell’Ambiente (NINFEA), translated as Birth and Childhood: the Effects of the Environment study, and runs a series of concatenated regressions in order to estimate the prospective effects of income on child body mass index (BMI) at different ages. Finally, module 3 (M3) uses dynamic microsimulation techniques that combine the population structure and incomes obtained by M1, with regression model specifications and estimated effect sizes provided by M2, projecting BMI distributions according to the simulated policy scenarios.
Results:
Both universal benefits, such as universal basic income (BI), and targeted interventions, such as child benefit (CB) for poorer households, have a significant effect on childhood overweight, with a prevalence ratio (PR) in 10-year-old children—in comparison with the baseline fiscal system—of 0.88 (95%CI 0.82–0.93) and 0.89 (95%CI 0.83–0.94), respectively. The impact of the fiscal reforms was even larger for child obesity, reaching a PR of 0.67 (95%CI 0·50–0.83) for the simulated BI and 0.64 (95%CI 0.44–0.84) for CB at the same age. While both types of policies show similar effects, the estimated costs for a 1% prevalence reduction in overweight and obesity with respect to the baseline scenario is much lower with a more focalised benefit policy than with universal ones.
Conclusions:
Our results show that fiscal policies can have a strong impact on childhood health conditions. Focalised interventions that increase family income, especially in the most vulnerable populations, can help to prevent child overweight and obesity. Robust microsimulation models to forecast the effects of fiscal policies on health should be considered as one of the instruments to reach the Health in All Policies (HiAP) goals.

Published in

BMC Medicine

Volume

19:310

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-021-02155-6

ISSN

16

Subjects

Young People, Child Development, Welfare Benefits, Health, Microsimulation, and Economic Policy

Notes

Open Access; This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

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