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By Michael Souza
PBN Staff Writer
SMITHFIELD – Health care is the largest and fastest-growing employment sector in the country, and Rhode Island is expecting that it will reap the job gains that are sure to come as the industry continues to evolve. That was the message delivered by participants in Bryant University’s third annual Rhode Island Economic Conference.
“Health care is responsible for somewhere between 16 to 18 percent of the gross domestic product. It’s an industry that’s growing and an industry that, because of advances in technology and biotechnology, will see significant changes in the way health-related services will be delivered in the long run,” said Jose-Marie Griffiths, vice president for academic affairs at Bryant.
According to statistics compiled by Bryant economics professor Sam Mirmirani, 10.3 percent of the Ocean State’s economy is devoted to health care. While the New England average is slightly less, the national average is 17.6 percent. That gap is one reason to expect growth in the Ocean State’s health care workforce, he said.
Demand will continue to grow for primary care physicians, physician assistants and nurses, Mirmirani added. On the nonclinical side, a new wave of career opportunities will emerge, such as medical logistics and operation system managers, as well as health care information management – all a result of emerging health information technology systems.
Investing in health care prevention strategies, such as dealing with obesity, will provide additional opportunities for job growth, as well. Research is also an economic driver, as is the advancement and development of technology that is going on in Providence’s Knowledge District.
“There are some opportunities here,” said Lt. Gov. Elizabeth H. Roberts. “We can move the needle on public health, and it can have a significant impact.”
In addition to discussing the significance of and opportunities presented by the health care sector, participants in the conference heard from business, government and academic leaders on the topic of economic development and job creation across the many sectors of the Ocean State’s economy.
Bryant took the opportunity at the opening of the conference also to announce the launch of its Center for Global and Regional Economic Studies. The new economic institute will specialize in statistical and econometric analysis, and expects to generate research, consult with businesses, and put on conferences and workshops, among other things.
Fifteen Bryant faculty members from the departments of economics, financial services, management, marketing and mathematics are research associates at the center.