Carr traveling to Latvia to research healthcare policy

Professor T.R. Carr

From September 10 until September 14, Economics Professor and MPA Program Director Dr. T.R. Carr will be at the University of Latvia and Riga Stradins University’s Stockholm School of Economics in Riga, Latvia. While in Riga, Carr will make presentations concerning decentralized healthcare policy and delivery, and he will additionally be meeting with University faculty and hospital administrators.

While the U.S. currently has a decentralized healthcare policy, meaning that healthcare policy and delivery is in the hands of the private and non-profit sector instead of the government, Latvia was, before its breaking away from the former Soviet Union, under centralized healthcare.

Now that Latvia has been independent for a number of years, Carr is interested in seeing where they stand on healthcare policy and delivery.

“Latvia is now establishing [its] own identity,” he says. “It will be interesting to look at their approach to healthcare and their approach to economic development because healthcare in Russia is highly centralized and very, very controlled.”

During his stay in Riga, Carr will gain knowledge on how Latvians receive healthcare, the current economic policies, and any issues that are surrounding the current healthcare system. He is hoping that this will be a productive first step in very extensive research on Latvian healthcare.

“We want to learn about Latvian systems, look at their system of healthcare, and look at American healthcare,” Carr says. “We’ll be looking for collaborative research in the future. Hopefully, this could lead to some follow-up visits and some exchange visits with the University of Latvia.”

Carr believes that learning about Latvian systems will help both scholars and everyday American citizens be better informed on the practices of centralized healthcare, as this topic is generating much buzz with the presidential election coming up. He feels that  this trip to Latvia will begin to provide helpful information and “help us make some informed choices” about healthcare.

“There’s a general lack of understanding about the nature of healthcare in a centralized system, and the strengths, the weaknesses, the pitfalls that are associated with the delivery of centralized healthcare, and our goal is to be able to understand it,” he explains.

Carr believes that examining healthcare systems within the Baltic states, especially Latvia, can provide a wealth of information concerning the state of healthcare in this growing part of the world.

“I’ve always had a strong interest in the Baltic states…and [the trip provides] a chance to look at a country that is emerging from domination by the Soviet Union,” Carr says. “We have a country that was dominated politically, economically, socially…They’re now independent…It’s going to be interesting to see how much centralization they’re choosing to retain. It will be interesting to see if they’re moving towards decentralization.”

While this is Carr’s first trip to Latvia, he has thrice been to Samara, Russia, to explore healthcare issues. During his trips, he met with the Minister of Health in Samara and established what he calls a “longer term relationship with the city.”

His maintaining a relationship with the city is evident, as Carr serves on the St. Louis-Samara Sister City Committee, and he has hosted delegations of Russian doctors in St. Louis in 2009 and 2010. He additionally presented papers on American healthcare at an international health policy conference in Samara in 2010.

Carr hopes to foster this type of relationship in Riga and also hopes to visit Latvia again next year. He believes that establishing relationships with healthcare administrators and faculty in Latvia will be the key aspect for fruitful fieldwork regarding the topic.

“Part of [the trip] is to build relationships,” Carr says. “To do meaningful research, we’ll have to build a foundation for some longer term relationships…I think it will be a very productive field to endeavor.”

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