Dr Lucia D’Ambruoso

Dr Lucia D’Ambruoso
BSc (Hons); MSc; PhD; FHEA

Senior Lecturer

Dr Lucia D’Ambruoso
Dr Lucia D’Ambruoso

Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 437127
The University of Aberdeen 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 17 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

Orcid:  orcid.org/0000-0002-8505-3368
Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?user=HUir5AIAAAAJ&hl=en
ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Lucia_Dambruoso2
Publons: publons.com/a/1468047/


Current Research

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. Notable examples are 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). INDEPTH is 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 Researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand 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 Grants

Abbott P (PI), D’Ambruoso L (Co-I). Strengthening health care systems in Rwanda and Ethiopia to provide care int eh community. GCRF Internal Pump Priming Fund (IPPF) 2020 | GBP 7010

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 Internal Pump Priming Fund (IPPF) 2019-2020 | GBP 9,990

D'Ambruoso L (PI), Byass P (PI). Extending the sustainability and transferability of people-centred health systems research. Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) 2019 -2020 | GBP 9,996

D'Ambruoso L (PI), Byass P (PI). 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 2019 | GBP 9,944

Loewenson R (PI), D'Ambruoso L (Co-I). Fostering policy support for child and family wellbeing -  Learning from international experience. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation  2018 - 2020 | USD 289,600

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

D'Ambruoso L (PI), Byass P (Co-PI), Witter S (Co-PI), 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. 2017-2022. Research Award.Medical Research Council (MRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Wellcome Trust, Department for International Development (DFID). Health Systems Research Initiative, 2017. GBP 705,467

D'Ambruoso L (PI), Abbott P (Deputy PI), Douglas F (Co-I), Okpo E (Co-I), McPherson E (Co-I). Learning from international experience on approaches to community power, participation and decision-making in health: Deep Scan Case Study Scotland. 2016-2018. Research Award. Training and Research SUpport Centre, Shaping Health: Exchanging on social power in health, November 2016. GBP 16,000

D'Ambruoso L (PI), Byass P (Co-I), Hurtig AK (Co-I), Kahn K (Co-I), Tollman S (Co-I). Verbal Autopsy with Participatory Action Research (VA-PAR): Developing a people-centred health systems research methodology. 2015-2016. Research Award/Develeopment Grant. Medical Research Council (MRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Wellcome Trust, Department for International Development (DFID). Health Systems Research Initiative, March 2015. GBP 99,604

D'Ambruoso L Development of a methodology reader on participatory action research. Stockholm Writers Meeting. 2014-2013. Principals Interdisciplinary Fund Award August. Disseminating a methodology reader at the Third Global Symposium on Health Systems Research: Cape Town 29 September – 3 October 2014. Principal's Interdisciplinary Fund. International Development Research Centre, Canada (IDRC) Conference Award Third Global Symposium on Health Systems Research and Post Conference Workshop Hosted by TARSC and pra4equity network in the Regional Network for Equity in Health in east and southern Africa (EQUINET) and Asociacio?n Latinoamericana de Medicina Social (ALAMES) 4 October 2014. GBP 3,016

Dr K Martin (PI), Prof G Macfarlane & Dr L D’Ambruoso (Co-I). Maintaining Exercise Long Term: Determining Influences on Chronic widespread pain (MELODIC). 2014-2015. NHS Endowment Fund RG11936-10. GBP 9,709

D'Ambruoso L. Supporting Work Based Placements with Health and Development Sector Organisations in Uganda, South Africa and Scotland. 2014-2015. Making the Most of the Masters Bursary Award. March 2014. Principal Applicant. GBP 1,500

Hussein J, Newlands D, D’Ambruoso L. A review of maternal and newborn health policies in five South Asian countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. 2007 - 2008. Policy Review. Co-investigator. UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia 2007-2008. USD 300,000


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 
Further Info

External Responsibilities

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


Admin Responsibilities

  • 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