The University of Aberdeen will be responsible for leading WP 1 (Management and Coordination) and WP 2 (Health Policy, Finance and Economics).

The UoA has an outstanding history of pioneering discoveries which have changed thinking and practice in medicine, science, arts and humanities over five centuries. Aberdeen performed outstandingly in the UK’s most recent Research Assessment Exercise (RAE2008) with 89% of research activity assessed as international quality and 55% is ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent. Its heath services research was recently rated as the equal first of all UK institutions.

The staff participating within this bid are based within IMMPACT - the Initiative for Maternal Mortality Programme Assessment (http://www.immpact-international.org/). Immpact is a global research initiative whose aim is to promote better health for mothers to be in developing countries. It has recently been involved in evaluating national strategies to reduce maternal mortality in a number of countries, including Burkina Faso, Ghana and Indonesia. IMMPACT is based within the Institute of Applied Health Sciences. There are currently over 350 members of the IAHS, working on areas such as public health, child health, obstetrics and gynaecology, health economics and health services research.

Dr Sophie Witter is a health economist with 20 years of experience in developing and transitional countries. For the last four years she has contributed to the Immpact project at the University of Aberdeen, an international research initiative strengthening the evidence base for reducing maternal mortality. As a research fellow, her specialist area is health policy, finance and systems. Her particular area of responsibility has been the evaluation of the impact of removal of user fees on access to maternity care. Focal countries for this work were Ghana and Senegal. She recently completed a PhD on exemptions policies for delivery care, and edited a book on obstetric financing. She is currently involved in a range of activities relevant for this proposal, including leading a multi-disciplinary team evaluating a pilot free care project in the Democratic Republic of Congo and working with the Supporting Safe Motherhood Programme in Nepal to monitor the impact of the free delivery policy which was recently introduced there. Sophie has previously done a number of studies of household ability to pay for health and coping strategies, including in Burundi in 2003 and in Sudan in 2005. She is francophone.

Dr Witter will act as scientific coordinator for the project, as well as leading Work Package 2 on health policy and financing. In addition, the services of a programme manager (Mr Alec Cumming), a communications specialist, an administrator and an accountant will be contributed by the University of Aberdeen. The programme will also benefit from the many maternal health specialists based at Immpact, such as Professor Wendy Graham, who will be able to contribute their knowledge and support to the consortium.