Valentina Actis Danna

Research Associate

Valentina completed a BSc in Political Sciences (2005-2007) and an MA in Development Cooperation (2007-2010) at the University of Turin (Italy). After a brief experience in Uganda, where she evaluated a training programme to empower women who had been sexually harassed, she was a successful candidate of the UN Fellowship Programme, and was assigned to the Italian Development Cooperation Agency in Sudan. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Sudan, she supported the development and implementation of interventions aiming to increase uptake of primary health care services in rural localities of Eastern Sudan (2013-2016).

She also worked with the RH Department to strengthen capacities of village midwives and community health workers to collect and report accurate data to the District Health Information System. Conducting field work in these settings, lead Valentina to the decision to enrol in a MSc in International Public Health / SRH pathway at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (2016-2017). During this experience she completed and published a qualitative study exploring healthcare workers attitudes and practice regarding the provision of pain relief during labour and childbirth, in Tanzania.

Since 2017, Valentina has joined the NIHR Research Group on Stillbirth Prevention and Management in Sub-Saharan Africa at the University of Manchester, which has now moved to LSTM. As Research Associate she collaborates with the Lugina Africa Midwives Research Network ( to conduct high-quality research in the area of stillbirth in 6 African countries (Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe). Her day to day work involves coordinating and supervising web-based data collection and data management in the partner countries, organising and delivering training sessions (both in-country and remotely), including the organisation of the LAMRN Conference 2018; develop project protocols for novel research, and implement the communication strategy of the programme (development and dissemination of the quarterly newsletter, designing posters and leaflet materials, and using social media for regular updates about programme’s activities).


The NIHR Research Group on Stillbirth Prevention and Management in Sub-Saharan Africa, has several workstreams. Valentina has been actively involved in the following research studies:

• Communication following stillbirth: a grounded theory study in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia (with Prof Dame Tina Lavender and Dr Carol Bedwell). 2018 – 2020 This study aims to understand communication related to breaking the news of a stillbirth to develop culturally sensitive guidance and training. We are also exploring the concept of post-stillbirth investigation related to cultural acceptability and consent processes.

• Promoting Respectful Maternity Care in Sub-Saharan Africa using game-based learning: The Dignity game study (with Prof Dame Tina Lavender and Dr Carol Bedwell). 2019 – ongoing This is a quasi-experiment study conducted in Malawi and Zambia to test the hypothesis that the implementation of a educational game on respectful maternal and newborn care (Dignity) improves midwives’ knowledge and understanding of respectful maternity care principles, and has an impact on their clinical practice.

• A Participatory Action Research to develop a sustainable support package for women with obstetric fistula and stillbirth / early neonatal death (with Prof Dame Tina Lavender, Dr Tracey Mills and Dr Sabina Wakasiaka). 2019 – ongoing This study aims to develop a sustainable support package to provide women with co-morbidities (obstetric fistula and stillbirth or early neonatal death) with psycho-social support, to be integrated into the current health system in Kenya.

Award Main applicant: 4,545 GBP - Design and production of Information, Education and Communication materials on obstetric fistula and stillbirth for women and community groups in rural Kenya. Global Challenge Research Fund, 2020. Peer-review Peer reviewer for the Journal of Global Health Action

Selected publications

  • Valentina Actis Danna, Carol Bedwell, Sabina Wakasiaka & Tina Lavender (2020) Utility of the three-delays model and its potential for supporting a solution-based approach to accessing intrapartum care in low- and middle-income countries. A qualitative evidence synthesis, Global Health Action, 13:1, DOI: 10.1080/16549716.2020.1819052

    McCauley, M., Actis Danna, V., Mrema, D. et al. “We know it’s labour pain, so we don’t do anything”: healthcare provider’s knowledge and attitudes regarding the provision of pain relief during labour and after childbirth. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 18, 444 (2018).