By Amy Rothman Schonfeld

Print journals remain one of the most credible sources for disseminating health economic research findings, and there is consensus about which are the core publications for communications within the field.

At least some health economists are stepping out of their “health economics shell” and looking beyond these traditional research outlets to other venues – whether speciality or general-interest medical publications or the general news media – to reach wider audiences.

Health Economics and the Journal of Health Economics are considered the premier journals for communicating with fellow health economists, according to Kevin Frick, PhD, an associate professor in the department of Health Policy Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Entries to these journals tend to be highly specialised and technical, and include empirical studies and theoretical contributions that focus on manpower planning and forecasting, financing of health services, cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analyses of procedures and treatments, and budgeting issues. In 2004, the ISI (Journal Citation Report Impact Factor)* was 2.495 for the Journal of Health Economics and 1.591 for Health Economics.

Three other journals are also highly regarded within the health economic field but have a broader readership: Medical Decision Making, Pharmacoeconomics, and Value in Health , according to Dr. Frick. The Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy and the American Journal of Managed Care are appropriate for economic valuations of medications and formulary decision making.

There is a growing appreciation within the health economic community that it is imperative to reach out to other audiences.“There’s a concern that journals like Health Economics and the Journal of Health Economics are not being read by managed care medical directors or other leaders that are making decisions about health care dollars,” Jennifer Lofland, PharmD, MPH, PhD, Research Assistant Professor of Medicine, and Project Director, Department of Health Policy, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, told us. She suggests that authors should look to publications that focus on treating specific clinical diseases, especially those with wide readership like the Archives of Internal Medicine or the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Frick adds JAMA to this list. “In my mind, JAMA has the distinction of being one of the few journals that is not an economics journal but holds authors of cost/effectiveness articles to some very high standards in terms of what needs to be in an article in order to be accepted – but makes it very easy and transparent for readers to understand what is being presented.”

Frick strongly believes that reaching out and educating other health professionals is an essential part of the professional responsibilities of a health economist. He suggests that colleagues should volunteer to serve on the editorial board of journals outside their speciality and review articles for publications if asked. “There must be a willingness among health economists to do the reviews, even if it’s not a journal they would pick up themselves,” says Frick. “If we’re not willing to participate in that quality control which extends beyond our immediate profession, there are going to be bad articles published.”

Lofland has been noticing recently that health economic reporting is appearing in mainstream venues, although she knows of only a handful of health economists who seek those outlets. “If we could have more of that [type of exposure], that would be even better, because my impression is that more people read the Wall Street Journal than read the Journal of Health Economics.”

* The Journal Citation Report Impact Factor or ISI is a quantitative measure of the frequency with which the average article published in a given scientific journal has been cited in a particular year or period , and is generally considered  to be a measure of the importance of a scientific journal. As a rule of thumb, an impact factor above 1.5 is fairly respectable. Many journals don’t have impact factors at all – and the creme de la creme can be above 30 e.g. the New England Journal of Medicine. JAMA impact factor is over 21, Archives of internal Medicine is over 6; you can generally find these figures from the journal websites or the ISI Journal citation reports for the previous year. http://scientific.thomson.com/products/jcr