Dr Lucia D'Ambruoso
Dr Lucia D'Ambruoso

Dr Lucia D'Ambruoso

BSc (Hons); MSc; PhD; FHEA

Senior Lecturer

Accepting PhDs


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


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 16 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 a five-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

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


P Abbott (PI), Binagwaho A, L D’Ambruoso (Co-I) 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 2022-26 | 2,717,954 GBP

Davies J, Chu K, D’Ambruoso L 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 Global Health Research Units and Groups Programme 2022-26 | 2,955,703 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. Programme Grant. MRC, ESRC, Wellcome Trust, DFID. Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) Joint Health Systems Research Initiative 2017-23 | 705,647 GBP                                   


Loewenson R (PI), D'Ambruoso L (Co-I). Fostering policy support for child and famiy wellbeing - Learning from international experience. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2018-20 | USD 289,600

D'Ambruoso L (PI), Abbott P (Deputy-PI), Douglas F (Co-I), Okpo E (Co-I), McPherson E (Co-I). Empowerment approaches to food poverty in Northeast Scotland In: Learning from international experience on approaches to community power, participation and decision-making in health. Training and Research Support Centre, Shaping Health Programme 2016-18 | GBP 16,000

D'Ambruoso L (Principal Investigator), Byass P (Co-I), Hurtig AK (Co-I), Kahn K (Co-I), Tollman S (Co-I). Verbal Autopsy with Participatory Action Research (VAPAR): Developing a people-centred health systems research methodology. Development Grant. MRC, ESRC, Wellcome Trust, DFID. Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) Joint Health Systems Research Initiative 2015-16 | GBP 99,604

Hussein J (PI), Newlands D (Co-I), D’Ambruoso L (Co-I). 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 2007-08 | USD 300,000




D’Ambruoso L, van der Merwe M, Goosen G, Sigudla J, Ballantyne L, Littlejohn C, Duffy S. “Covid and the community”: International collaborative exchange and methods transfer developing whole systems community engagement as preventative interventions for COVID-19. Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund 2022 | 17,765 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 2021 | 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 2020-21 | GBP 22,955

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) 2020 | GBP 55,570

Abbott P (PI), D’Ambruoso L (Co-I). Strengthening health care systems in Rwanda and Ethiopia to provide care in the community. GCRF Institutional Pump Priming Fund (IPPF) 2020 | GBP 7,010

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) 2020 | GBP 19,994

D’Ambruoso L (PI), Black C (Co-I); 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) 2019-2020 | GBP 9,990

D'Ambruoso L (PI), Byass P (Co-I). 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) University of Aberdeen 2018-19 | GBP 9,944

N’Dow J (PI), D'Ambruoso L (Co-I). Women’s Health Outcomes Improvement for West Africa Initiative. Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) Scottish Funding Council 2018 | GBP 9,940

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 2014-15 | GBP 9,709

D'Ambruoso L (Principal Investigator). 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) /University of Aberdeen Bursary Award. 2014-15 | GBP 1,500

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. Principals Interdisciplinary Fund August and International Development Research Centre, Canada (IDRC) Conference Award 2013-14 | GBP 3,016




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