Dr. Zlata Tanovic successfully defends development and health economics thesis

The Amsterdam Institute for Global Health & Development (AIGHD) shares in celebrating a wonderful accomplishment by one of our PhD students: Dr. Zlata Tanovic successfully defended her thesis.

The thesis defense ceremony took place on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 at the Aula – VU University Amsterdam. A celebration with family, friends and colleagues followed. Zlata’s PhD supervisor is AIGHD academic staff prof. dr. Chris Elbers and her co-promotor is prof. dr. Jacques van der Gaag.

Her research, titled Behind the data: evaluating health care interventions in developing countries, looked at the importance of carefully organizing research and data collection in the case of health care interventions in three sub-Saharan African countries.

Using data collected through various household surveys in Tanzania, Nigeria, and Namibia, she investigated both the socio-economic effect of health insurance when coupled with health facility upgrades as how data collection methods can distort the results of research. This work builds on the evaluations of Health Insurance Fund programmes that were conducted by AIGHD. In addition, her last chapter discusses refusal bias in the estimation of HIV prevalence, which is linked to earlier AIGHD research on PharmAccess programs in Namibia.

Two of her papers have been published in international, peer-reviewed journals and a chapter on the socio-economic impact of health insurance contributed to inspiring the Kwara state government in Nigeria to take over the subsidy of the insurance program and to scale it up to the entire state population. Three other Nigerian states are implementing similar schemes, while the Central Government is working to implement universal health insurance coverage in Nigeria.

Prior to beginning her PhD, the area of development and health economics was new to Zlata, whose initial background and expertise was in theoretical econometrics. She initially worked as a research assistant at AIGHD. Soon after joining, she became interested in studying development and health economics, one of AIGHD’s key research areas.

“One of the great – and unique – things about working with AIGHD is that many projects are a collaboration between economists and medical doctors, which allows for both types of data to be collected and two types of expertise to be incorporated into the research,” said Zlata.

“I found this very valuable when researching development projects with an orientation in health and in fact, without the biomedical data, the two methodological papers of my thesis wouldn’t exist.”

Please join us in congratulating Zlata for this important accomplishment in her career.