Institute for Global Health and Development: Research

“A multi-disciplinary centre for research and postgraduate education, addressing contemporary health and development challenges in low- and middle-income countries and their connection to global systems and trends.”

Queen Margaret University's Institute for Global Health and Development (IGHD) is a multi-disciplinary centre for research and postgraduate education, addressing contemporary health and development challenges in low- and middle-income countries and their connection to global systems and trends.

Our approach is marked by a commitment to critical thinking, practice engagement, and social justice.

-Critical thinking means we bring fresh insight and perspectives to situations, with our work frequently involving innovative methodologies and approaches.

-Practice engagement means that we are committed to working directly with Ministries of Health, international and national organisations and local communities to develop real solutions to problems.

-Social justice means that we are always particularly mindful of the needs of the most disadvantaged and ways of improving their health and well-being.

Our Research

The Institute for Global Health and Development applies social science in order to understand and impact the health and development of vulnerable and marginalised populations globally.

IGHD builds upon a long-standing track-record of engagement in the field of global health and development at Queen Margaret University (QMU), with an emphasis on supporting the development of policy and systems in the context of community engagement.

QMU was selected as a focus for supporting capacity development in primary healthcare in the wake of the Alma-Ata Declaration, through the establishment of a Postgraduate Diploma in Primary Health Care in the 1980s.

It led a major programme of strengthening nursing services in Bangladesh in the 1990s and was a founder member of the TropEdEurop network on the establishment of the Centre for International Health Studies in 1993.

Our work is characterised by:

• A multidisciplinary approach rooted within the social sciences

• A commitment to research which provides both a critical perspective on issues and points towards tangible actions to address them

• A concern to address the health and well-being of those in greatest need, whether that be vulnerable populations in Scotland or those recovering from civil conflict overseas

Established as an Institute in 2004, IGHD has grown to be a focus for research of significant policy and practice impact. Our research on user fees made a significant contribution to how these were removed for all, or for selected populations, in 28 out of 50 countries with the largest maternal and child health mortality rates.

Our work across Ethiopia, Indonesia and Kenya was recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO), as demonstrating that community-based practitioners operating within an integrated team, supported by the health system, provides a cost-effective means to deliver essential health interventions.

Our research on the issue of refugee integration has significantly shaped the Scottish Government Refugee Integration Strategy ‘New Scots’ and impacted policies more widely in Europe, Australia and the USA.

Our Impact

Focussing Research for Maximum Impact

Research is focused in areas where the Institute has a track record and ongoing capacity for world leadership.

We structure initiatives within research clusters that maximise synergies between the work of academic staff, researchers and doctoral students. Research clusters evolve over time, reflecting emerging opportunities for collaboration and impact.

Currently, our clusters are focused on work on health systems, particularly in fragile and low-income settings, and studies on the themes of psychosocial well-being, protection and integration.

Health Systems

Our team is heavily engaged with the UK Department for International Development-funded ReBUILD consortium. ReBUILD’s work is focused in Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Cambodia.

Other recent and ongoing health systems work has been funded by:

-the World Health Organisation (WHO)

-the Medical Research Council (MRC)

-the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

-the National Institutes for Health (NIH)

These have addressed issues ranging from human resources for health in Africa, to analysis of systems resilience in the Middle-East and strategies supporting poverty alleviation in Asia.

Doctoral students contribute to the work of the Institute significantly in this thematic area, with recent and ongoing research in Ghana, India, China and Peru.

Psychosocial Well-being, Protection and Integration

Work on this theme involves studies across diverse settings, with a consistent focus on refugee and other vulnerable or marginalised communities.

This includes work in both humanitarian situations (for example, in Nepal, in Malawi post-floods, in the Middle-East) and in contexts of refugee resettlement (including the current settlement of Syrian refugees in Scotland).

Our work in this area is not only supported by research funders but also typically by inter-governmental, governmental and non-governmental partners (such as UNICEF and World Vision).

An increasing number of doctoral students contribute to a coherent, impactful research agenda in this area, including part-time research students with ongoing employment with the United Nations (UN) and international NGOs.

Postgraduate Study

We are proud of our reputation for providing a high-quality programme which draws together participants from diverse cultural, professional and academic backgrounds to share a student-centred experience, emphasising mutual learning and support.

With a typical cohort size of around 25 students, our programme provides a learning environment focussing on active learning and interchange of ideas and views between participants and educators.

The diverse background of our students and small class size enables learning to be interactive, with lectures and online learning material supplemented with in-class group work and discussion.

Assignments are diverse, and geared towards practice applications and facilitating extension of participants’ interests and developmental needs.

The active engagement of teaching staff in applied research provides many opportunities to illustrate issues with contemporary field examples.

Useful Links:

-MSc Global Health

-MSc Applied Global Health

-MSc Sexual and Reproductive Health

-MSc Mental Health and Psychosocial Support

-PgCert Health in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States


Research Clusters

Explore our research clusters and associated projects below:

Health Systems Cluster

The Health Systems Cluster conducts health systems research with a focus on health inequality, social determinants of health and progress towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC). 

Psychosocial Wellbeing, Integration and Protection Cluster

The focus of work in the area of psychosocial wellbeing, protection and integration is marked by strong engagement with a broad range of governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental actors.

Research Projects

NIHR Research Unit on Health in Situations of Fragility (RUHF) 

The NIHR Research Unit on Health in Situations of Fragility (RUHF) at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh focuses on contexts where displacement, conflict, pandemic disease or weak capacity makes the delivery of health services especially challenging.

Although its work seeks to be of wide relevance to delivery of healthcare in situations of fragility, RUHF is especially focusing on two vital but commonly neglected areas of health provision in these contexts: mental health and psychosocial support and the treatment and prevention of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

RUHF Researchers at the QMU’s Institute for Global Health and Development (IGHD) work closely with the Unit's collaborative partners -the Global Health Institute, American University of Beirut (AUB), Lebanon, and the College of Medicine & Allied Health Science (COMAHS), Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Staff: Alastair Ager, Sophie Witter


Systems resilience in UNRWA health provision to Palestine refugees displaced by the Syria crisis

This project explores key vulnerabilities of UNRWA health systems in the face of disruptions associated with the displacement of Palestine refugees registered in Syria. The research aims to identify strategies to strengthen health system resilience in contexts of protracted displacement.

This research project is funded by Elrha’s Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises R2HC Programme. The R2HC programme is funded equally by the Welcome Trust and DFID with Elrha overseeing the programme’s execution and management.

Staff: Alastair Ager, Sophie Witter


Whole systems of care for stroke patients in China

This initiative is funded by the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, the Economic and Social Research Council and DFID.

The 16-month project has been developed in collaboration with medical anthropology, nursing, and public health researchers at Sun Yat-Sen University, in order to build evidence towards the development of a stroke care system for older adults in Guangdong Province.

Staff: Karina Kielmann


Strengthening Evidence for Scaling of Psychological First Aid in Humanitarian Settings

Rebecca Horn, Fiona O’May and Alastair Ager of IGHD are working with the War Trauma Foundation on this R2HC-funded study.

This project looks at the deployment of Psychosocial First Aid (PFA) in the Ebola Response in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and its subsequent broader rollout across the health sector in these countries.

Staff: Alastair Ager, Rebecca Horn


Channels of Hope for Child Protection

IGHD researchers have supported the evaluation of strengthening community-based World Vision programmes seeking to mobilize local faith communities in promoting child protection.

After pilot work in Malawi, impact research studies are currently underway in Senegal and planned for settings in Central Asia and Latin America.

Staff: Carola Eyber, Alastair Ager


MY Voice 2

Following on from previous work funded by the Scottish Government, this project gathers attitudes, perceptions and experiences of women and men from communities affected by female genital mutilation in Scotland.

Staff: Oonagh O’Brien


Local Community Experiences of and Responses to Conflict-Induced Displacement from Syria: Views from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey

This project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council. It aims to critically examine how, why and with what effect local communities in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are responding to mass displacement from Syria.

The focus is to develop a greater understanding of the roles that religious values, beliefs and practices play both implicitly and explicitly in these responses.

Staff: Alastair Ager


Innovative e-learning & teaching through strategic partnerships in Global Health education

Carola Eyber from IGHD, along with partners at KIT (Royal Tropical Institute) in Amsterdam, Netherlands and the University of Bergen, Norway, are combining expertise on Global Health education to develop an innovative online course.

The project, funded by Erasmus+, will produce online modules with subject areas of TB care and health in areas affected by conflict.

Staff: Carola Eyber


The Engagement of Local Faith Communities in Humanitarian Response

Alastair Ager is working with the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities, in order to document the evidence-base on the contribution of local faith communities to humanitarian response.

Recent presentations have been to the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul and in the context of the UNGA and Presidential Summits on migration and refugees in New York.

Staff: Alastair Ager


Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Network

Alison Strang is co-founder and coordinator of the MHPSS network. This platform seeks to improve mental health and psychosocial well-being in emergencies and situations of chronic adversity, by improving access to people and resources.

The network connects southern and northern practitioners with each other, and to a broad range of online training and programme materials.

Staff: Alison Strang


Mapping Social Connections across Diverse Cultural Settings

Alison Strang has developed a participatory methodology enabling community groups to identify local social resources and measure individual and collective connectedness and trust.

Current work supported by Tearfund has seen it used with displaced communities in Kurdistan to inform humanitarian programming.

Staff: Alison Strang, Oonagh O’Brien


A Household Yeast Sensor for Cholera

This work is funded by the US National Institute of Health and supports colleagues at Columbia University in the development of an innovative product for cholera diagnosis and surveillance.

Researchers at IGHD explore the product’s adoption, impact and cost effectiveness when used in humanitarian and low-resource settings.

Staff: Alastair Ager, Karin Diaconu


Increased TB treatment adherence & improved outcomes in vulnerable groups in European Economic Area

This project is part of a larger programme of work funded by the European Centre for Disease Control and World Health Communication Associates in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

It will provide preliminary evidence for the impact of a tailored tuberculosis adherence support intervention on interim treatment outcomes. Through process evaluation, the research will report on challenges encountered in intervention delivery.

This study is being carried out among hard-to-reach and vulnerable population groups in Riga, Latvia.

Staff: Karina Kielmann, Nicole Vidal


Optimizing health systems to improve delivery of decentralized care for patients with drug resistant tuberculosis

The aim of this Medical Research Council funded project is to identify opportunities for feasible, short to medium term interventions to improve decentralization of services for patients with drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) in South Africa.

Supporting tubercal colleagues from the University of Cape Town’s Department of Medical Microbiology, we will assess health systems factors that enhance or undermine the delivery of treatment for DR-TB, determining what works and why it works, across different settings.

Staff: Karina Kielmann

Professor Alastair Ager - Director

Kitty Flynn - Centre Contact
Tel: 0131 474 0000

Engage with the Team

  • IGHD News
  • Blog posts

£7.68m award helps universities rebuild resilient health systems in fragile and shock-prone areas

A consortium involving Queen Margaret University (QMU), Edinburgh has been awarded £7.68 million by read more

12 August 2020

Queen Margaret University awarded over £92,000 in COVID-19 research funding

Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, has been awarded £92,242 in rapid coronavirus research funding read more

30 April 2020

QMU celebrates launch of journal special issue on response to mental health of Rohingya refugees

A special issue of the journal documenting the response to the mental health and psychosocial wellbe read more

13 November 2019 More news

Stress and distress amongst asylum seekers in a Glasgow hotel? Why?

[Published by Dr Alison Strang, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Global Health and Develo read more

01 July 2020

Alumni Spotlight: Emmanuel Nene Odjidja

After graduating from the Institute of Global Health and Development (IGHD) with an MSc Global Healt read more

08 April 2020

Finding common humanity

Edinburgh recently welcomed the 1,000th person granted refuge in Scotland through the Syrian Resettl read more

14 September 2017 More blog posts