David Hemenway
Primary Faculty

David Hemenway

Professor of Health Policy

Harvard Injury Control Center


Other Positions

Professor of Health Policy

Health Policy and Management

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health


David Hemenway, Ph.D., Professor of Health Policy, is Director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. He formerly spent a week each year at the University of Vermont as a James Marsh Visiting Professor-at-Large.

Dr. Hemenway teaches classes on injury and on economics. At HSPH he has won ten teaching awards as well as the inaugural community engagement award.

Dr. Hemenway has written widely on injury prevention, including articles on firearms, violence, suicide, child abuse, motor vehicle crashes, fires, falls and fractures. He headed the pilot for the National Violent Death Reporting System, which provides detailed and comparable information on suicide and homicide. In 2012 he was recognized by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention as one of the "twenty most influential injury and violence professionals over the past twenty years."

In articles on insurance, Dr. Hemenway described a general reason why low-risk individuals often buy insurance, and coined the term "propitious selection." Recent economic studies have focused on empirically determining which goods are more and less positional (e.g., bought largely to "keep up with the Joneses"). An early statistics article, Why Your Classes are Larger than Average, has been anthologized in various mathematical collections.

Dr. Hemenway has written five books. Industrywide Voluntary Product Standards (1975) describes the role of voluntary standards and standardization in the U.S. economy. Monitoring and Compliance: the Political Economy of Inspection (1985) describes the importance of inspection processes in ensuring that regulations are followed, and the reasons the system often fails. Prices and Choices (3rd edition) (1993) is a collection of twenty-six of his original essays applying microeconomic theory to everyday life.

Private Guns Public Health (2006, 2017) describes the public health approach to reducing firearm violence, and summarizes the scientific studies on the firearms and health.

While You Were Sleeping: Success Stories in Injury and Violence Prevention (2009) describes more than sixty successes, and over thirty heroes who have made the world safer. This readable book helps answer the questions "What is public health?" and "What is the public health approach?" To read more about this ode to public health, click here for Dr. Hemenway's book blog.