DrPH Thesis

Family planning during Ebola: Perspectives on access and provision in Sierra Leone

Background: The neglect of family planning services in humanitarian crises has been documented in relation to conflicts, natural disasters and displacements.  However, there is a research and literature gap on this problem in contexts of disease outbreaks. The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa resulted in mortality increases not only from Ebola itself, but also from decreased health service utilization, including of maternal health services.  The reasons for this decrease occurred on both the health service provision (supply) side, and the service-user (demand) side.  Both sides were also affected by the “no-touch” policy in place in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak that disrupted provider-user relationships.

Aim: The overall aim of the research is to analyse reproductive health policy and services in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak to identify how future responses could be improved, with regards to maintaining access to, and utilization of, family planning.

Methods: This research project will employ both primary and secondary sources.  Secondary sources include: 1) a literature review of available evidence, both peer reviewed and grey, to identify known barriers to family planning provision and uptake in outbreaks, and 2) a quantitative analysis of family planning clinic service utilization before, during and after the Ebola response.  Primary data collection will involve: 1) clinical observations of family planning services, 2) in-depth interviews with family planning health workers, family planning service-users and district and national stakeholders, and 3) focus group discussions with health workers and service-users to identify policy recommendations to maintain services in future outbreaks.

Analysis: Analysis will consider a wide health systems lens, but will focus on the service-user and service-provider interaction in the “no-touch” environment in-depth using an approach drawing on Mauss’ techniques of the body, Bourdieu’s habitus and Foucault’s biopower. 

In early 2018 I applied for (and got into) the Emerging Voices for Global Health programme.  This was my application video (filmed at my field site in Sierra Leone) where I describe my thesis project!

Ebola in DRC

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Evaluation of community-based Ebola control interventions in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The study will describe and evaluate the epidemiological and decision-making impact of two community-based interventions implemented by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to control Ebola in DRC. These are i) a system to collect and analyse community feedback on the epidemic and the response and ii) the Safe and Dignified Burials (SDB) programme. The study will analyse the evolution of community perceptions regarding Ebola and the response and explore how community feedback information has been used to adapt the response. An evaluation of the intervention fidelity and performance of the SDB intervention will also be conducted and estimate its effect on EVD transmission. 



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Taking a professional doctorate in Public Health: A Case Study of students on the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s DrPH Programme. ​

The Doctorate in Public Health (DrPH) at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) is the only professional doctorate in public health in the UK. Drawing students from across the world, the programme provides doctoral level training for the future leaders of global health service organisations. The majority of the students come from outside the UK, which leads us to ask the questions:


  1. What drives students to pursue the DrPH degree at LSHTM?

  2. How do students’ perceptions inform our understanding of the similarities and differences between a DrPH and other types of Professional Doctorates (PD) or terminal research degrees?


The specific aims of this case study are to (1) understand the perceptions of current DrPH students and recent graduates with respect to their motivations for selecting the DrPH at LSHTM over other professional doctorate programmes or a traditional PhD; (2) explore the experiences of these students and graduates with respect to how LSHTM’s DrPH programme enhanced their professional and academic development, and how this relates to their career objectives; (3) consider the experience of LSHTM DrPH students with what is known in the literature about motivations for students to pursue a PD and (4) to identify areas of further research, including what motivates UK public health practitioners to choose alternate terminal degrees. 


The study employs a mixed methods design.  We will undertake semi-structured interviews of 12-15 current/recent DrPH students and will send a self-administered online questionnaire to all current and recent DrPH graduates (within 5 years of degree completion). The results will be used as a foundation for further research on the DrPH programme and cohort, within the wider body of existing research on doctoral degrees and professional doctorates.

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