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McGeary Looks at Health by the Numbers

Kerry Anne McGeary
“Our professors get really creative when it comes to engaging students. It used to be that professors would stand at a lecture podium and talk about their research. Now they engage you in that research.”

Kerry Anne McGeary, PhD, associate professor of economics and director of the Global Health Institute


Health economics professor Kerry Anne McGeary knows the numbers well:

  • 474,500 Hoosier adults report having diabetes.
  • 66.5 percent of Indiana’s adult population, or about 3.2 million, are overweight or obese. 
  • Smoking costs the state nearly $5 billion per year in productivity loss and health care costs.

These statistics come from recent reports of Ball State’s Global Health Institute, a university-wide initiative to promote health-related research programs. The institute, located at Ball State's campus in Muncie, Indiana, has studied the national and statewide economic burden of diseases and behaviors such as smoking, obesity, diabetes, and asthma.

McGeary helped establish the institute when she joined the economics faculty as the university’s Phyllis A. Miller Professor of Health Economics in 2010.

At the time, McGeary was shopping for a university where she could use her academic background in business with her interest in questions regarding health care. That’s when she discovered that Ball State had faculty pursuing health and wellness issues in nearly all its departments.

“I wanted to be part of that mix,” says McGeary, who collaborated in the launch of Ball State’s MBA concentration in health economics soon after she arrived. In 2011, she authored an interdisciplinary curriculum for an online graduate-level certificate in health economics, policy, and administration for health professionals. It’s one of a few such programs in the nation.

“I knew there was a market for programs bridging medicine and economics because health care is a huge industry,” she says. “Right now, health care is 17 percent of our GDP and probably heading toward 20 percent.”

The health economics certificate is offered through the MBA program so students receive MBA-level management education, notes McGeary.

“Because it is set up as a certificate, if you are in a master’s program at any school, you can pick up a few courses and just get the certificate rather than doing our MBA with a concentration in health economics, policy and administration,” she says.

McGeary came to Ball State with several years of online teaching in Drexel University’s MBA program. She says the online environment at Ball State is innovative because of the efforts of the faculty.

“Our professors get really creative when it comes to engaging students. It used to be that professors would stand at a lecture podium and talk about their research. Now they engage you in that research,” says McGeary. “We’ve had students who have left online programs at other universities and come to Ball State because of the flexibility and because of the human interaction they can have with professors.”

She likes the fact that tenure track faculty members do the teaching instead of contract faculty.

“We are a research institution, but we still have a strong emphasis on the value of students. At a lot of research universities, you lose that,” says McGeary.

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