Dr Rachel Tolhurst


Rachel is the Research Director for the GCRF Accountability for Informal urban Equity Hub (ARISE) (2019-2024), together with Sally Theobald as PI. This Hub will address the intractable development challenge of ill-health, inequity and insecurity in informal urban settlements in Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs). More than half of the world’s people live in cities and one in three of these in LMICs live in informal settlements, which pose a wide range of physical and mental health risks, yet receive inadequate services and opportunities to improve their lives.  Our Hub brings together ten partners with a range of relevant expertise and commitment to work with disadvantaged people living in informal settlements. Our research will support them in claiming their rights to health and to build government accountability and capacity to provide them with security and services. By sharing experiences across four countries – Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, Kenya and India – we hope to shape national and global policies and best practices. 

Rachel is the Social Sciences lead for the NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Lung Health and Tuberculosis in Africa at LSTM (IMPALA) (2017-2021), and for the Drivers of Antimicrobial Resistance (DRUM) consortium (GCRF) (2018-2021).

She also leads the gender equitable careers theme on the DELTAS Learning Research Programme (2016 – 2020), in collaboration with the Capacity Research Unit. She is senior social Science advisor to the NIHR-funded Global Health Research Group African Collaboration on Sepsis (ARCS) (2018-2020).

Previous research in the last 10 years has included leading LSTM’s contributions to two EU-funded consortia - MATIND, an EU-funded consortium which evaluated two demand-side financing approaches to improving maternal health in India, and INPAC, which aimed to test an intervention to improve post-abortion family planning in China - as well as leading MRC-funded social science research exploring the drivers of child marriage in Sudan. She was also part of the REACHOUT project, which aimed to understand and develop the role of close-to-community providers of health care in rural and urban areas in Africa and Asia.

PHD Students

An advanced cookstove intervention to prevent pneumonia in children under 5 years in Malawi: a qualitative perspective. Jane Ardrey

An examination of barriers and enablers to gender equitable scientific career pathways in African research institutions. Millicent L Liani

Understanding illness experience of NTDs endemic to Liberia: Opportunities and threats for integrated disease management and disability and inclusion strategies. Laura Dean

Understanding vulnerability and empowerment through engagement with biomedical HIV prevention technologies amongst female sex workers in Malawi. Wezzie Lora. 

Quality of life among people with chronic lung disease in LMICs. Irene Ayakaka

Exploring opportunities for addressing intimate partner violence in the context of community-based HIV services in Kenya and steps toward testing interventions at community-level. Beate Ringwald 


Rachel contributes substantial teaching inputs on qualitative research to Research Module (TROP 934) and on social determinants of health, equity, gender and health seeking behaviour to Key Themes in International Health and Policy (TROP 937). She supervises Masters student dissertations. She also teaches on DTMH and Short Course on International Health Consultancy.

Rachel contributes substantial teaching inputs on qualitative research to Research Module (TROP 934) and on social determinants of health, equity, gender and health seeking behaviour to Key Themes in International Health and Policy (TROP 937). She supervises Masters student dissertations. She also teaches on DTMH, DRH and Short Course on International Health Consultancy.


Selected publications

  • Ardrey J, Desmond N, Tolhurst R/Mortimer K* (*joint senior authors) (2016). The Cooking and Pneumonia Study (CAPS) in Malawi: A nested pilot of Photovoice participatory research methodology. PLOS One, 11(6): e0156500. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0156500.

    Sidney K, Tolhurst R, Jehan K, Diwan V, and De Costa A (2016) ‘The cash transfer is important but all women anyway go to hospital for childbirth nowadays’ - a qualitative exploration of why women participate in a cash transfer program to promote institutional deliveries in Madhya Pradesh, India. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 16:47 DOI 10.1186/s12884-016-0834-y.

    Ewing VL, Tolhurst R, Kapinda A, SanJoaquin M, Terlouw DJ, Richards E, et al. (2015) Understanding Interpretations of and Responses to Childhood Fever in the Chikhwawa District of Malawi. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0125439. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0125439

    Raven J, van den Broek, Tao FB, Kun H, Tolhurst R (2015) The quality of childbirth care in China: women’s voices: a qualitative study. BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth. 15:113.

    Chepuka L, Taegtmeyer M, Chorwe G, Mambulasa J, Chirwa E, and Tolhurst R (2014) Perceptions of the mental health impact of intimate partner violence and health service responses in Malawi. Global Health Action 7: 24816. http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/gha.v7.24816.

    Al-yaemni A, Theobald S, Faragher B, Jehan K and Tolhurst R (2013) Gender inequities in health: An exploratory qualitative study of Saudi women's perceptions. Women & Health, 53:7, 741-759.

    Richards E, Theobald S, George A, Kim JC, Rudert C, Jehan K, Tolhurst R (2013) Going beyond the surface: Gendered intra-household bargaining as a social determinant of child health and nutrition in low and middle income countries. Social Science and Medicine, 95 pp. 24-33

    Liu XY, Tang SL, Yu B, Phuong NK, Yan F, Thien DD, and Tolhurst, R (2012) 'Can rural health insurance improve equity in health care utilization? a comparison between China and Vietnam'. International Journal for Equity in Health, Vol 11, Issue 10.

    Wu Z, Lei P, Hemminki E, Xu L, Tang SL, Liu XY, Raven J, Gao J and Tolhurst R(2012) 'Changes and Equity in Use of Maternal Health Care in China: From 1991 to 2003'. Maternal and Child Health Journal, Vol 16, Issue 2, pp. 501-509.

    Tolhurst R, Leach B, Price J, Robinson, J, Ettore, E, Scott-Samuel, A, Kilonzo N, Sabuni LP, Robertson S, Kapilashrami A, Bristow K, Lang R, Romao F, and Theobald, S (2011) 'Intersectionality and Gender Mainstreaming in International Health: Using a Feminist Participatory Action Research Process to Analyse Voices and Debates from the Global South and North.' Social Science & Medicine, Vol 74, Issue 11, pp. 1825-1832.

    Tolhurst R, Amekudzi YP, Nyonator F, Squire B and Theobald S (2008) ‘"He will ask why the child gets sick so often": the gendered dynamics of intra-household bargaining over healthcare for children with fever in the Volta Region of Ghana. Social Science and Medicine, 66 (5) 1106-1117.