Professor Sally Theobald

Chair in Social Science and International Health

I have a disciplinary background of geography and development studies and a PhD in Gender, Health and Development. I am a social scientist with over  25  years   experience of collaborative research projects focusing on health systems strengthening systems in different contexts (including in fragility and in informal urban settlements)  in Africa and Asia.

Teaching: Qualitative research 


I am currently working on collaborative research projects in Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia,  Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh and India.  My research area is gender equity and health systems.

My current research focus and grants are in the following areas:

1. Gender equity, human resources and health systems
2. Gender equity, health systems sexual and reproductive health and rights and Neglected Tropical Diseases
3. Gender equity, ethics research uptake and capacity building

PhD Students

Karsor Kollie – NTDs and health systems in Liberia
Rosalind Steege -  Gender, equity and community health workers – Ethiopia & Mozambique 
Amuda Baba -  Maternal health and human resources in rural fragile DRC
Laura Dean – Neglected Tropical Diseases and intersectionality in Liberia

Current projects and grants


£3,420,256:REDRESS, REDRESS: Reducing the Burden of Severe Stigmatising Skin Diseases through equitable person-centred approaches to health systems strengthening. (PI with Laura Dean as research director, Karsor Kollie as Liberia PI and Julie Irving as programme manager) National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research Innovations for Global Health Transformation (RIGHT) award.


£13 million: ARISE The GCRF Accountability for Informal Urban Equity Hub, (PI with Rachel Tolhurst as research director) ARISE GCRF 2019-2024

£7 million: 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 (part of the core team for this with Mark Taylor, Rachael Thomson and others)  DFID 2014-2020

Euro 5.8 million: Reaching out and Linking in: Health systems and close to community services (REACHOUT, EU FP7, PI with Miriam Taegtmeyer 2013-18), partnership with Bangladesh, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and Mozambique

£8,000,000: Research for building pro-poor health systems during the recovery from conflict (REBUILD). Partnerships with Uganda, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone and Cambodia. Directors Tim Martineau and Barbara Mcpake DFID 2011-2019

Previous Research grants

Euro, 250,000: Institutional capacity development for multi-disciplinary health research to support the health system rebuilding phase in Sierra Leone (RECAP-SL), Haja Wurie & Jo Raven PI (I am co-PI) EDCTP 2016- 2018

£1 million : Cross Research Programme Consortia Partnership on Gender, Ethics and Health Systems co-PI with Rosemary Morgan, Asha George Catherine Molyneux, Sarah Ssali and Kate Hawkins. DFID, 2014-18

CAD$414,982:  Applied research on Health Extension Workers using e-health to strengthen equitable health systems in Southern Ethiopia Daniel Gemechu Datiko, PI, I am co-applicant  IDRC, 2014-17 

€2,995,323: Supporting decentralised management to improve health workforce performance in Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania (PERFORM) PI Tim Martineau . EU FP7 2011-15

US$250,000 Empowering district-level managers to improve Health Worker Performance in Nepal (Implementation Research Platform (IRP) , World Health Organization, 2013-15, PI Sushil Bharal)

US $999,560 Scaling up innovative community-based approaches to improve TB diagnosis and treatment among vulnerable and high risk populations TB REACH 2013-14 (PIs Luis Cuevas & Daniel Datiko)

$30,000: Consent to and Community Engagement in Health Research - Reviewing and Developing Research and Practice, meeting award with, Susan Bull; Phaikyeong Cheah; Khin Maung Lwin; Vicky March; Sassy Molyneux; Michael Parker; WELLCOME TRUST MEETING AWARD, 2011.

£22,533: Gender influences on child survival, health and nutrition: a narrative review. PI Rachel Tolhurst, UNICEF, 2011.

$689,163: Innovative community-based approaches for enhances tuberculosis case finding and treatment outcome in southern Ethiopia (PI with Mohammed Yassin). TB REACH, 2010-2011

$287,621: Increased detection of children, women and elderly individuals with smear-positive TB in Yemen (PI with Najla Al-Sonboli) .TB REACH, 2010-2011

£249,725: Identifying barriers to TB diagnosis and treatment under a new rapid diagnostic scheme. (PI with Luis Cuevas). ESRC/DFID 2008-2011.

£10,361: Reflection and experience sharing on context responsive capacity building and strengthening the research to policy and practice interface with National Research Council, Malawi and Consortium for National Health Research, Kenya PI. IDRC, 2009-10

£17,300: Gender mainstreaming in international health: Embracing new challenges; PI with Rachel Tolhurst. ESCRC Research seminars 2008-9.

£19,260: Strengthening the research to policy and practice interface: exploring strategies used by research organisations working on sexual and reproductive health and HIV and AIDS, PI. DFID 2009-10. 

Other relevant expertise, professional memberships etc.

• Co-chair of the Executive Committee for Health Systems Research 2018 conference in Liverpool as part of Health Systems Global. A very successful conference with 2,400 participants from 146 countries. October, 2018.

• Invited to chair and present a session in parliament for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Neglected Tropical Diseases and Malaria. London October, 2018. 

• Chair of the Global Challenges Research Fund HORN (One Health for the Horn of Africa) Advisory Panel 2018-2022

• Invited to participate and present at the WHO Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research expert consultation “The Health Policy and Systems Research Agenda on Gender and Intersectionality: Where are the gaps? What can we learn?” Dubai, April, 2018

• Invited to participate and present at the 8th and 9th Working Group on Monitoring and Evaluation in 2017 and 2018 respectively – highest decision making body on Neglected Tropical Diseases within the World Health Organisation 

• Panel member for the review of the MRC-AHRC Global Public Health: Partnership Awards, Dec, 2017

Selected publications

  • Theobald S, Brandes N, Gyapong M, El-Saharty S, Proctor E, Diaz T, Wanji S, Elloker S, Raven J et al. 2018. Implementation research: new imperatives and opportunities in global health. The Lancet.

    Percival V.  Dusabe-Richards E. Wurie, H. Namakula, J.Ssali, S. & Theobald, S. (2018) Are health systems interventions gender blind? examining health system reconstruction in conflict affected states Globalization and Health201814:90

    Steege, R. Taegtmeyer, M. McCullom, R. Hawkins, K. Ormel, H. Kok, M. Rashid, S. Otiso, L. Sidat, M. Chikaphupa, K, Gemechu-Datiko, D. Ahmed, R. Rolhurst, R. Gomez, W & Theobald, S. (2018) How do gender relations affect the working lives of close to community health service providers? Empirical research, a review and conceptual framework, Social Science & Medicine Volume 209, July 2018, Pages 1-13

    Witter, S. Namakula, J. Wurie, H. Chriwa, Y. So, S. Vong, S. Ros, B, Buzuzi, S. & Theobald, S. The gendered health workforce:  mixed methods analysis from four fragile and post-conflict contexts, Health Policy and Planning. Volume 32, Issue suppl_5, 1 December 2017, Pages v52–v62, 

    Kamuya, D. Molyneux, S.& Theobald, S. “Gendered negotiations for research participation in community based studies in Kenya: Implications for health systems research” BMJ Global Health DOI: 10.1136/bmjgh-2017-000320 Published 7 June 2017