The Health Economics Unit (HEU) was established in 1995, as one of the research clusters in the Department of Economics at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. The HEU staff is responsible for research, training and project-related activities in health economics and related areas, including social insurance, poverty, health and sustainable development, equity, health policy and management. In 2008, the HEU was granted the status of a semi-autonomous centre within the University. Its name was subsequently changed to the HEU, Centre for Health Economics to reflect this change.
The timing of the establishment of the HEU coincided with the growing movement towards health sector reform in the English-speaking Caribbean. Researchers in the HEU, therefore, saw themselves as part of the response of the University of the West Indies to a critical, technical support need in the region. It is no surprise that the HEU has developed close ties with a number of Ministries of Health in the Caribbean, as well as with other supportive agencies within and outside the UWI.
The establishment of the HEU is seen as one means by which the UWI can make a more substantial contribution to the quality of life of the people of the Caribbean. The HEU has assumed the responsibility of filling a perceived regional need for continuity of research efforts in a number of areas that have a direct bearing on policy formulation and implementation. Through the HEU, the intention is that the UWI will strengthen the efforts of the governments and other active agencies of the region in bringing better health care within the reach of all citizens. It is also expected that the HEU will make social policy more effective in providing the health systems of the region with expanded flexibility and capability.
It is also envisaged that the Centre will continue to make strategic alliances with professionals of a high calibre who normally operate outside of the UWI and even outside of the Caribbean. It is expected that in return for its efforts to imbue greater value to the efforts of the respective governments of the region, the HEU will contribute to the University’s intention of gaining access to the resources required to make a greater contribution to its research and training functions.