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Adam Wagstaff

May 3, 1959May 10, 2020
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Dr. Robert Adam Stephen Wagstaff of Washington, DC died on May 10, 2020. He was born May 3, 1959 in Northhampton, United Kingdom to John Stephen Wagstaff and Elizabeth Ruth Palmer. He attended University of Wales, University College Swansea where he completed his BA Economics (1st class honors). He received the Adam Smith Award for Best Graduating Student. Adam completed his PhD Economics at the University of York

Adam started his academic career at the University of Sussex (1986-1998) where he became one of the youngest full Professors of Economics in the UK. In that period he co-led a series of EU funded projects on equity in the finance and delivery of health care that developed new tools for measurement and new comparative results for European countries.

He joined the World Bank in 1999 as a Lead Economist. From 2009 on he led and managed research on the economics of health, education, and social protection as Research Manager of Human Development in the Development Research Group at the World Bank. In addition to his formal job in research, he had a significant influence over the World Bank’s operations and loans as a member of the Health and Social Protection Boards and the Human Development council and as a generous peer reviewer for operational Bank documents.

He also served as the President of the International Health Economics Association in 2016-17 and was an associate editor of the Journal of Health Economics for 20 years.

He published extensively on a variety of aspects of the field, including Universal Health Coverage, health financing and health systems reform, as well as on health, equity and poverty. His most recent work was on health insurance, health financing, vulnerability and health shocks, and provider payment reform. He had extensive experience in China and Vietnam and worked on other countries in East Asia, as well as countries in Africa, Latin America, South Asia, and Europe and Central Asia.

Adam was a top scholar in the field of health economics and had a powerful impact on health policy across the world. He shaped the methods and tools for measuring inequality and inequity in health in profound ways, influencing a generation of researchers and government officials.

Beyond his unparalleled publication record, Adam worked tirelessly to turn ideas into practice by addressing real-world problems and communicating findings in an accessible way. Of his many achievements, the one he was most proud of in recent years was the inclusion of Universal Health Coverage as one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Adam also never gave up being a teacher. He was not only an exceptional mentor to colleagues at the World Bank, but also championed efforts to make data, tools and training available to academics, students and policymakers across the world. He is ranked in the top 20 of most frequently cited of all health economists in the world, and in top 5% of all economists.

Adam is survived by his Wife: Pierella Paci - (Washington, DC), Daughter: Lilli Ruth Paci Wagstaff (London, UK), Son: Benedict John Paci Wagstaff (New York), Brother: Jeremy Wagstaff (Singapore), Niece: Charlotte Wagstaff (Singapore)

In Lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Adam’s name to one of charities listed below.


  • Hope Connections for Cancer Support
  • Hope Connections for Cancer Support: As we learnt firsthand as a family, battling cancer requires a huge amount of support, both physically, mentally and emotionally. Adam often remarked how grateful he was for the support his wife and family provided him and how tough it would’ve been without them. He was very aware that this was a luxury that wasn’t afforded to all patients. He visited Hope Connections and was moved by the extensive and accessible, free, programs they provided across their locations in Prince George’s County and Montgomery County to families that needed, and weren’t fortunate to have the same level of support as him. He had already donated to their cause because he believed in their mission to provide emotional support, education, wellness and hope to cancer patients and their families, free of charge.
  • HealthWell Foundation
  • HealthWell Foundation: Adam dedicated his life to reducing health inequality across the world and often felt that in a high quality healthcares system, like the US, access to health was widely unequal. Throughout his fight with cancer, he was always appreciative of the fact that he had great health insurance and was able to afford the amazing care that extended his life for many years. We think it's only fitting to remember his life by helping those in the US that are not able to afford essential medical care. Please join us in supporting the HealthWell Foundation, a charity that provides financial support to the uninsured of America and whose vision (“To ensure that no patient goes without health care because they cannot afford it”) aligns perfectly with Adam’s beliefs.


  • Memorial Service to be scheduled at a future date.


Adam Wagstaff

have a memory or condolence to add?

Alok Bhargava

May 30, 2020

I was sad to hear about Adam Wagstaff's early death and would like to express my condolences to his family. I had met Adam in person only twice though we communicated for over two years in connection with his two papers that I published in 1997 and 2003 in special issues "Analysis of data on health" of the Journal of Econometrics. Adam was very interested in applying econometric techniques for improving the measurement of health and other inequities. His papers were well received by the readership and he was happy that I sided with the authors rather than the referees on several technical points.

Elan Blutinger

May 23, 2020

Eva and I just heard about Adam’s passing. I remember so many informal conversations with Adam at WIS when I always wanted sound advice about economic challenges at the school. He would offer more than economic advice but wisdom about history and what it teaches us about the future. Always kind, calm, and even-tempered. We always got the sense that he was a happy soul that enjoyed life and it’s challenges. And he was. He will be a great loss to those who knew him but also to the community he lived in here in Washington.
Eva and Elan Blutinger

Anugraha Palan

May 19, 2020

We have lost a brilliant mind and wonderful colleague. Laser-sharp and accomplished, but also kind, patient and never too busy to play Professor Adam and explain health economics to someone like me who did not have a background in the subject. My role was to simplify it further for a public audience -- and it was amazing how excited he could get over something simple like a cool infographic. His resilience and work ethic were inspiring, right up to the very end. Rest in serenity wherever you are, Adam. My deepest condolences to the family.

Bob Rijkers

May 18, 2020

Dear Pierella, Benedict, Lilly,

I am very sorry for your loss.

Adam was an impressive person. He was kind and considerate, and will be deeply missed.

My thoughts are with you.


Jos Verbeek

May 18, 2020

We worked a bit together on some of the health SDGs/MDGs, but I got to know Adam through Pierella and the work she and I had done on Poland in the early 2000s and the nice dinner parties the family organized. It always felt as coming to your own family home. A small anecdote that Adam reminded my son of when he came to visit us in Hermance, was that my son had thought that he and Pierella were from the future as they had arrived at our house (then in Bethesda) in there super cute convertible VW, which my son clearly thought came from the future. Adam, your wonderful sense of humor, demeanor will be missed and Vildan and I are grateful to have had you in our lives. Lots of strength to the family!

Charlie Griffin

May 17, 2020

Hi Adam, wherever you are. I am so sorry that I didn’t know you were in distress. I would have come to talk to you about how important you were to me in my life and intellectual development. I would have wanted to know what you would do next so I could help it along after you. You never wavered from your pursuit of understanding health inequality. You pioneered so many empirical innovations to do that. You are a loss to humanity. My condolences to Pierella and your family, for sure, but the premature loss to the world of 20 more years of your effort sets us all back. I am sorry to have lost such a fine man as you during my life. Charlie Griffin

Celestine Oshaughnessy

May 17, 2020

The Wagstaffs and OShaughnessys were friends from late childhood/ early adulthood. A very precious time. Adam and Jeremy came to play on our piano and we'd all sing the latest songs they had written. I remember their excitement when they taped one such song and sent it to Mickey Most...the Simon Cowell of our generation. I really dont know if he responded but perhaps Adams career would have taken a different direction if he had. It certainly never stopped him playing!

An Ni Huang

May 16, 2020

On behalf of York University Taiwan Alumni Association , I send our deepest condolences to the Wagstaff 's family on the passing of Adam , a remarkable York Alumnus .


May 16, 2020

We all will miss Adam a lot. A true giant in his field and kind and gentle soul with such wit and sense of humor. His love for life and his family thought me a lot. I will always remember him for his enormous integrity and spirit. My deepest condolences to Pierella, Benedict and Lilli. His love will live with you forever.

Reem Hafez

May 16, 2020

I was privileged to have met Adam early in my career. A giant in his field, I had known of him before I ever met him. And when I did, I was struck by how approachable and genuine he was with his time and guidance. I have since come to realize just how rare and instrumental his mentorship was. He encouraged me to pursue my PhD which is how I ended up at York and then Oxford and part of this wonderful community of health economists. To his family, my deepest condolences and heartfelt thanks for sharing him with us all. -Reem


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