Dr Laura Dean


Laura is a social scientist with over 10 years’ experience of research, capacity strengthening, and partnerships for community led development and health systems strengthening in Africa and Asia.


Laura's research utilises qualitative, narrative, and participatory research methods and focuses around strengthening people-centred health systems to support chronic disease management and disability inclusion. The majority of Laura's research is focused within fragile and conflict affected States and prioritises the needs and experiences of marginalised populations and draws on intersectionality theory. Laura is a graduate of the Emerging Voices for Global Health programme and is committed to raising the profile of young research scientists, predominantly from the global south, within global health and health systems research. Laura's PhD research drew on syndemic and intersectionality theory to explore experiences of neglected tropical disease(s), disability, and mental distress to support the development of equitable people-centred health systems responses in Liberia.

REDRESS: Reducing the Burden of Severe Stigmatising Skin Diseases through equitable person-centred approaches to health systems strengthening (National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Research Innovations for Global Health (RIGHT) Award) 

Working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Liberia, REDRESS draws on participatory health research approaches and aims to reduce illness, stigma, social exclusion and poverty caused by severe stigmatising skin diseases (SSSDs) in Liberia. Laura is the Research Director of the REDRESS programme. In collaboration with Dr Janice Cooper and Mr John Brimah, Laura leads the 'patient engagement and person centred approaches' research theme, with a specific focus on mental health and disability inclusion for people affected by severe stigmatising skin disease. Laura's work in this project utilises community based participatory research methodologies to engage with people affected by stigmatising skin diseases to generate innovative community based solutions to stigma and social exclusion. Laura is also working with informal health providers to consider their role in the provision of psycho-social support services in Liberia.

COUNTDOWN: Calling Time on Neglected Tropical Diseases, A programme of Implementation Research to Inform the Effective and Sustainable Scaling-Up of Integrated Neglected Tropical Disease Control Initiatives (UK AID) Laura is a co-investigator within the COUNTDOWN programme and collaborates with multi-disciplinary colleagues across Liberia, Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon to support the design and delivery of qualitative health systems implementation research, focused on improving the applicability, accessibility and availability of NTD interventions with a specific focus on equity.

Across all partner countries, Laura works closely with Ministry of Health partners and research collaborators with a specific focus on developing equitable research partnerships and strengthening health systems research capacity.

ARISE The GCRF Accountability for Informal Urban Equity Hub (UKRI-GCRF) Laura is a researcher co-investigator within the ARISE hub. Laura supports the use of new and innovative participatory research methods to address the intractable challenge of ill-health, inequity and insecurity in urban informal settlements. Laura works closely with the hub team in Sierra Leone, including co-researchers who are individuals living and working within informal settlements in Freetown, to apply principles of community based participatory research to improve civil participation, accountability, and wellbeing. Laura also has a portfolio of smaller research grants and consultancies that support the development of people-centred health systems and the mainstreaming of intersectional and gender analysis within health systems.

Across all grants, Laura is passionate about strengthening health systems to deliver more responsive and holistic care for people affected by chronic disease and disability.

Other grants include:

Identifying the optimal delivery model for the identification, confirmation and referral of NTD cases requiring MMDP services within an Integrated health systems approach to NTD care in Liberia (COR-NTD-2018-2020)

Planning, implementing and evaluating morbidity management and disability prevention (MMDP) using community-based research with patients and frontline service providers in Nigeria (COR-NTD 2018-2020)

Development of a guidance document on gender and intersectionality in research on infectious diseases of poverty (TDR 2018-2019)

Piloting the WHO toolkit; ‘Towards Universal Health Coverage for preventive chemotherapy for Neglected Tropical Diseases: guidance for assessing “who is being left behind and why” (Sightsavers 2017-2019)

The Ebola Outbreak, NTD control and the wider health system: understanding impact and the way forward in Liberia (Health Systems Global Thematic Working Group Fragile and Conflict affected States 2015)

Selected publications

  • Dean, L., Obasi, A., Elsony, A., Fadul, S., ElHassan, H., Thomson, R., Tolhurst, R. 2019. “He is suitable for her, of course he is our relative”: a qualitative exploration of the drivers and implications of child marriage in Gezira state, Sudan. BMJ Global Health. 4 (3)

    Dean, L., et al. 2019. Neglected Tropical Diseases as a ‘Biographical Disruption’: Listening to the Narratives of Affected Persons to Develop Integrated People Centred Care in Liberia. PLoS NTDs.

    Dean, L., et al. 2019. Neglected Tropical Diseases as a litmus test for Universal Health Coverage? Understanding who is left behind and why in mass drug administration: Lessons from four country contexts. PLoS NTDs.

    Dean, L., Tolhurst, R., Khanna, R., and Jehan, K. 2017. 'You're disabled, why did you have sex in the first place?' An intersectional analysis of the sexual and reproductive health needs and rights of disabled women in Gujarat state, India. Global Health Action. 10 (2).

    Saleh, S., Mbera, G., Banda, H., Thomson, R., Stenberg, B., Squire, B., Tolhurst, R., and Dean, L. 2018. Health seeking for chronic lung disease in central Malawi: adapting insights from a qualitative study. PLoS One.

    Dean, L., Gregorius, S., Bates, I., and Pulford, J. 2017. Advancing the science of health research capacity strengthening in low and middle-income countries: A scoping review of the published literature, 2000-2016. BMJ Open. 7 (12).

    Theobald, S. MacPherson, E., Dean, L, et al. 2017. 20 years of Gender Mainstreaming in Health: Lessons and Reflections for the Neglected Tropical Diseases Community. BMJ Global Health.

    Dean, L., Njelesani, J., Smith, H., and Bates, I. 2015. Promoting Sustainable Research partnerships: a mixed-method evaluation of a United Kingdom-Africa capacity strengthening award scheme. Health Research Policy and Systems. 23 (13): 81.