Meet Volha Lazuka
How do health interventions during the childhood translate into better health and earnings in adulthood? Is it due to direct effects of interventions themselves or the interplay of several interventions at different ages, or completely other mechanisms? This is what Volha Lazuka, an Assistant Professor at the Department of Business and Economics, aims to investigate further, as one of the emerging career scholars participating in the SAMF Talent Track. Read a Q&A with Volha Lazuka.
What research idea lies behind your participation in the Talent Track?
During the years within the Talent Track program, I will investigate the dynamic impacts of child health and skills enhanced by the interplay of historical health and school interventions across the life cycle. An expanding literature in economics, epidemiology and other disciplines has established that human capital formed before age 18 determines adult outcomes.
Economists have currently started investigating how these effects are produced. However, they have faced important empirical challenges in these investigations: to capture the dynamics of a child’s health formation and its responses to disease environment that is too mild to be studied with recent data; to identify multiple interventions targeting both health and skills of the same children at adjacent ages that are rare in practice. In the coming 3 years and beyond, my research vision is to address these challenges based on recent advances in econometrics applied to unique interventions and rich data from Denmark and Sweden.
How did you become interested in your field of research?
Belonging to the cohort of Belarusian children born surrounding the years of Chernobyl radioactive fallout, in my MSc project I got interested in and studied whether this negative event could have lasting effects on individuals. My interest was fuelled during my doctoral studies where I investigated whether public interventions, or positive rather than negative events, that occurred in the individual’s childhood could affect individuals in a beneficial way in a long term.
Indeed, as my PhD dissertation and research carried out during a postdoc fellowship have shown, this is the case for several public interventions targeting infant health implemented in the first half of the 20th century in Sweden, such as the opening of primary care centres, access to quality midwives, opening of maternity wards and the arrival of first antibiotics against pneumonia. Not only did these interventions improve child health, but also the individuals who were affected in childhood had higher earnings and better health having reached their adulthood.
What research question would you above all like to find the answer to? And why is that?
In this project, I will investigate the dynamic impacts of child health and skills enhanced by the interplay of health and school interventions across the life cycle. Above all, I would like to know how interventions translate into better health and earnings in adulthood: is it due to direct effects of interventions themselves or is it due to the interplay of several interventions or with negative events throughout childhood, or other mechanisms.
The empirical literature in economics and epidemiology on early-life health interventions has developed to the point where it is necessary to investigate the origins of the large magnitude of the early-life phenomenon. To date, the dynamic effects of health have not been properly investigated and understood.
Which impact do you expect the Talent Track will have on your career and on your research field in general?
The acceptance to the Talent Track program provides support to my own efforts. My medium- to long-term career objective is to become an academic leader in applied microeconomics that will allow me to fulfil the requirements for a tenured professorship. Participation in the Talent Track program will help me in achieving the excellence objective for the next 3 years – to receive an elite grant. The Talent Track program will support me with resources essential for the successful implementation of the project in terms of funding the methodological courses, research assistance, national and international research visits, as well as connect me to the competent advisors.
The project advances the state of the art by studying all possible dynamic effects among school-aged children and their long-term effects with the novel causal methods applied to rich data. Due to the collaboration with the experts in economics, econometrics and epidemiology from the University of Southern Denmark and University of Copenhagen, I will broaden my international network.
Which impact do you expect your research to have on the surrounding society?
My project unites scholars from different fields and institutions, such as epidemiology and economics at University of Southern Denmark and University of Copenhagen as well as embeds itself into the interdisciplinary environment of Interdisciplinary Centre for Population Dynamics at SDU, thereby creating synergies between national activities.
It has also a broader societal impact. By studying different health and school interventions, their interactions and looking at the long term, this project directly generates policy implications in terms of the most efficient intervention and treatment components and/or necessitates their combination for success.
Volha Lazuka is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Business and Economics and belongs to the research groups Econometrics and Economic History, HEDG and CPop.