Dr Lucia D'Ambruoso

Dr Lucia D'Ambruoso
Dr Lucia D'Ambruoso
Dr Lucia D'Ambruoso

BSc (Hons); MSc; PhD; FHEA

Senior Lecturer

Accepting PhDs

Email Address
Telephone Number
+44 (0)1224 437127
Office Address

Aberdeen Centre for Health Dta Science (ACHDS) Room 1:172, Polwarth Building, Foresterhill Health Campus, Institute of Applied Health Sciences, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK

School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition


I am a social scientist and health policy and systems researcher interested in service organisation and delivery, the social determinants of health, and participatory theory and method. I work mainly with relativist theories and methods to understand and draw transferable learning on: health and wellbeing as shaped by social structures and systems; health systems as complex, adaptive, human and relational; policy norms and recognition; and social and political participation.  

I have worked internationally for 20 years in sub-Saharan Africa (Burkina Faso, Ghana, South Africa, Uganda), Southeast Asia (India, Indonesia, Nepal) and Europe (Scotland, Sweden) with universities, research agencies and networks, civil society groups, social enterprises, UN organisations, and in governments at different levels. My research is supported by research councils and philanthropic organisations. I lead an 8-year Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) programme strengthening health systems in South Africa through people-centred and comprehensive primary care approaches to leverage inter-sectoral action.

I teach at postgraduate and undergraduate levels on health systems and policy, global health and development, and qualitative and participatory theory and methods. I am deputy director of the Centre for Global Development at the University of Aberdeen, Honorary Researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Global Affiliate of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Verbal Autopsy, Umeå Centre for Global Health Research, Umeå University, Sweden. I also serve on the Editorial Board of Global Health Action and the Steering Committee of the Politics of Health Group (POHG).

I welcome expressions of interest from those wishing to undertake PhD research in related areas.

Further information at: http://abdn.ac.uk/iahs/research/global-health/ and http://www.abdn.ac.uk/achds


  • BSc (Hons) Pharamcology 
    1997 - University of Aberdeen 
  • MSc Public Health and Health Services Research 
    2003 - University of Aberdeen 
  • PhD Public Health 
    2011 - University of Aberdeen 
  • FHEA Higher Education 
    2017 - Higher Education Academy 
  • FRSPH Public Health 
    2020 - Royal Society for Public Health 

Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships
  • Deputy Director and member Executive Committee, Centre for Global Development
  • Steering Group Member Delivery of Care Research Group. Institute of Applied Health Sciences
  • Member Postgraduate Education Group, Institute of Applied Health Sciences
  • Member Athena Swan Self-Assessment Team, Institute of Applied Health Science
External Memberships

External Recognition

  • 2015 - date       Trustee Naretu Girls and Women Empowerment Programme, Kenya
  • 2014 - date       Steering Committee Politics of Health Group (POHG)
  • 2011 - 2017      Editorial Board BMC International Health and Human Rights
  • 2010 - date       Editorial Board Global Health Action 

 External Responsibilities

  • 2016 – date      External Examiner University of Glasgow MSc Global Mental Health
  • 2017 – date      Member Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Improving Scotland’s Health: 2021 and Beyond
  • 2017 – date      Member Scottish Parliament Cross Party International Development Group
  • 2017 – date      Organising Committee Member Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE), University of Edinburgh Global Health Symposium in February 2018


Latest Publications

  • Mapping the processes and information flows of a pre-hospital emergency care system in Rwanda: a process mapping exercise

    Nishimwe, A., Iradukunda, J., D'Ambruoso, L., Assuman, N., Nyinawankusi, J., Uwitonze, J. M., Cyubahiro, V. K., Sindikubwabo, J. N., Hagumimana, D., Hagenimana, F., Semuto, J. C., Rukundo, G., Sheferaw, E. D., Munyura, O., Ignatowicz, A., Rickard, R., Muhire, P., Jayaraman, S., Belli, A., Bojke, L., Bekele, A., Byiringiro, J. C., Davies, J., Rwanda912 RIGHT Group
    BMJ Open, vol. 14, no. 6, e085064
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Opening decision spaces: a case study on the opportunities and constraints in the public health sector of Mpumalanga Province, South Africa

    D'Ambruoso, L.
    PloS ONE
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • A protocol for a critical realist systematic synthesis of ~interventions to~ promote pupils’ wellbeing by improving the school climate in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

    Abbott, P. A., Shanks, R., Stanley, I., D’Ambruoso, L.
    PloS ONE, vol. 19, no. 5, e0286489
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Understanding the health system utilisation and reasons for avoidable mortality after fatal injury within a Three-Delays framework in Karonga, Northern Malawi: a retrospective analysis of verbal autopsy data

    Whitaker, J., Edem, I., Amoah, A. S., Dube, A., D'Ambruoso, L., Rickard, R. F., Leather, A. J. M., Davies, J.
    BMJ Open, vol. 14, no. 4, e081652
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Retrospective analysis of Verbal Autopsy data to understand health system utilisation and reasons for avoidable mortality after fatal injury within a three delays framework in Karonga, Northern Malawi.

    Whitaker, J., D'Ambruoso, L.
    BMJ Open
    Contributions to Journals: Articles

View My Publications


Research Overview

I work with two main methods: routine mortality surveillance accounting for social dimensions of unregistered deaths, and participatory methods to shift power towards those most directly affected to know, understand, act and transform. In 2015, I was awarded a development grant from the MRC, ESRC, DFID and Wellcome Trust as part of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) to progress these methods in a rural district in South Africa. In 2016, I was awarded a five-year programme grant from the same scheme to lead a team of academics, policy-makers, planners and fieldworkers to scale-up the method in the provincial health system. The programme aims to leverage inter-sectoral action by developing critical enquiry processes and partnerships among service users, providers and decision-makers at different levels. 

I am also interested in policy processes, innovation, technology and delivery, and the contexts and mechanisms of participation in health systems. I have recently secured funding from a US philanthropic organisation to examine policy norms and recognition for child and family wellbeing in high, middle and low-income countries, and I contribute to a GCRF initiative in The Gambia developing networks to strengthen emergency obstetric care with rapidly deployable, smart technologies. I also lead research in Scotland examining empowerment approaches to food poverty (including social enterprises, participatory budgeting from the local authority, and legislative shifts including the Community Empowerment Act) as part of an international research network.

My research is enabled through a wide network of collaborations, inlcuding with the MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Unit, School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, a major research centre established in 1992, and the founding member of INDEPTH (the International Network for the Demographic Evaluation of Populations and Their Health) a unique umbrella organisation of 53 demographic surveillance sites in 20 low and middle-income countries. I have worked with the MRC/Wits Unit since 2011 and was appointed Honorary staff in 2016. In the same year, I contributed to the INDEPTH Annual General Meeting in Kampala with a paper, presentation and grant-writing workshop entitled “Creating new multi-site, multi-sectoral research collaborations in demographic surveillance” to develop interdisciplinary collaborations connected to health care planning and management. 


Research Areas

Accepting PhDs

I am currently accepting PhDs in Applied Health Sciences.

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss your research ideas further.

Email Me

Applied Health Sciences

Accepting PhDs

Funding and Grants


D'Ambruoso (PI), Duffy S (CI), Watson K (CI), Littlejohn C (CI). Cost of living/cost of smoking: participatory research on smoking in deprived communities within the cost-of-living crisis


Cancer Research UK (CRUK)/ASH Scotland


51,530 GBP

P Abbott (PI), Binagwaho A (PI), L D’Ambruoso (CI) et al. NIHR Global Health Research Group on Promoting Children’s and Adolescent’s Mental Wellbeing in sub-Saharan Africa


NIHR Global Health Research Group


2,717,954 GBP

Davies J (PI), Chu K (PI), D’Ambruoso L (CI) et al. NIHR Global Health Group on Equitable Access to Quality Health Care for Injured People in Four Low- or Middle-Income Countries: Equi-injury


NIHR Global Health Research Units and Groups Programme


2,955,703 GBP

Davies J (PI) D’Ambruoso L (CI) et al. Rwanda912: Use of an electronic communications platform to improve pre-hospital transport of injured people


NIHR Research and Innovation for Global Health Transformation


3,199,931 GBP

D'Ambruoso L (PI), Byass P (Co-I), Witter S (Co-I), Kahn K (Co-I), Tollman S (Co-I), R Twine (Co-I), B Spies (Co-I), M van der Merwe (Co-I). Verbal Autopsy with Participatory Action Research (VAPAR): expanding the knowledge base through partnerships for action on health equity


MRC, ESRC, Wellcome Trust, DFID. Joint Health Systems Research Initiative


705,647 GBP



Loewenson R (PI), D'Ambruoso L (CI). Fostering policy support for child and family wellbeing - Learning from international experience


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


289,600 USD

D'Ambruoso L (PI), Abbott P (Deputy-PI), Douglas F (CI), Okpo E (CI), McPherson E (CI). Empowerment approaches to food poverty in Northeast Scotland In: Learning from international experience on approaches to community power and participation in health


Training and Research Support Centre, Shaping Health Programme


16,000 GBP

D'Ambruoso L (PI), Byass P (CI), Hurtig AK (CI), Kahn K (CI), Tollman S (CI). Verbal Autopsy with Participatory Action Research (VAPAR): Developing a people-centred health systems research methodology. Development Grant


MRC, ESRC, Wellcome Trust, DFID. Joint Health Systems Research Initiative


99,604 GBP

Hussein J (PI), Newlands D (CI), D’Ambruoso L (CI). Review of maternal and newborn health policies in five South Asian countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan). Policy Review


UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia


300,000 USD





D’Ambruoso L (PI), van der Merwe M (CI), Nombuyiselo (CI). Expanding a Community Health Worker training intervention in rural South Africa to transfer methods and maximise uptake and impact




9,868 GBP

D’Ambruoso L (PI), Ignatowicz A, Tshabalala K, Davies J (CI), Byiringiro JC (CI), Knowledge exchange for participation in health: participatory methods and capabilities for evidence-informed injury care in Rwanda




9,786 GBP

D’Ambruoso L, van der Merwe M, Goosen G, Sigudla J, Ballantyne L, Littlejohn C, Duffy S. “Covid and the community”: International collaborative exchange developing whole systems community engagement as preventative interventions for COVID-19


Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund 


17,765 GBP

D’Ambruoso L, Loewenson R, Okpo E, Shivaji T, Littlejohn C, Bell J, Paranjothy S, Black C. Developing learning health systems: building alliances and piloting processes to inform and support local decision-making for COVID-19


GCRF Institutional Pump Priming Fund (IPPF) 


19,994 GBP

D’Ambruoso L, Witter S. Verbal Autopsy with Participatory Action Research (VAPAR): expanding the knowledge base through partnerships for action on health equity (COVID-19 Response)


Scottish Funding Council GCRF Covid-19 Response


42,048 GBP

D’Ambruoso L, Witter S, Twine R, Kahn K, Tollman S. Verbal Autopsy with Participatory Action Research (VAPAR): expanding the knowledge base through partnerships for action on health equity (COVID-19 Response)


UKRI Covid-19 Extension Allocation Fund


22,955 GBP

Anderson l, Camanda J, Chocolate FAM, Buco R, D’Ambruoso L, Lohfeld L. Evaluating opportunities and barriers to establishing an autonomous and functional sickle cell anaemia (SCA) unit in Cabinda, Angola


GCRF Institutional Pump Priming Fund (IPPF) 


55,570 GBP

Abbott P (PI), D’Ambruoso L (CI) Strengthening health care systems in Rwanda and Ethiopia to provide care in the community


GCRF Institutional Pump Priming Fund (IPPF) 


7,010 GBP

D’Ambruoso L (PI), Black C (CI); Van Der Merwe M (Co-I); Mdluli D (Co-I) Schneider H (Co-I); Witter S (Co-I). Developing learning health systems in South Africa: building interdisciplinary capacity for evidence- based decision-making and health systems strengthening to improve care and outcomes


GCRF Institutional Pump Priming Fund (IPPF) 


9,990 GBP

D'Ambruoso L (PI), Byass P (CI). Extending verbal autopsy: developing routine field surveillance methods to measure and understand burden of disease in low- and middle-income countries


REF2021 Impact Support Award (RISA)  


9,944 GBP

N’Dow J (PI), D'Ambruoso L (CI). Women’s Health Outcomes Improvement for West Africa Initiative


Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) Scottish Funding Council 


9,940 GBP

Martin K (PI), Macfarlane G (Co-I), D’Ambruoso L (Co-I). Maintaining Exercise Long Term: Determining Influences on Chronic widespread pain


NHS Endowment Fund


9,709 GBP

D'Ambruoso L (PI). Supporting Work Based Placements with Health and Development Sector Organisations in Uganda, South Africa and Scotland


Making the Most of the Masters Scottish Funding Council (SFC)


1,500 GBP

D'Ambruoso L. Developing a reader on participatory action research, Stockholm Writers Meeting. And Disseminating at the Third Global Symposium on Health Systems Research: Cape Town 2014


International Development Research Centre, Canada (IDRC) Conference Award


3,016 GBP


Teaching Responsibilities

Course coordinator:

  • BU5594: Health Policy and Systems Research

I also teach on:

  • PU5033: Introduction to Global Health
  • PU5505: Global Health
  • PU5521: Work-Based Placements with Health and Development Sector Organisations
  • PU5906: Global Health Research Project
  • PU5027: Fundamentals of Research Design (Online course)
  • ME33GH: Global Health and Humanities (Year 3 MBChB Medical Humanities SSC Option)
  • SX1012: Sustainable International Development (6th Century Course)
  • Africa: Sustainable Development for All? (Massive online open access course, MOOC) https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/africa-sustainable-development 

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Books and Reports

Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings

Contributions to Journals

Contributions to Specialist Publications

Working Papers