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Prof Tim Colbourn
Prof Tim Colbourn profile picture
  • Professor of Global Health Systems, Epidemiology and Evaluation
  • Institute for Global Health
  • Faculty of Pop Health Sciences

After graduating with a BSc in Microbiology at UCL in 2003, I went straight on to complete a Masters in Control of Infectious Diseases at LSHTM in 2004. My first research job was at the Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the UCL Institute of Child Health from 2005-2007, on a high-profile Health Technology Assessment for the NHS on prevention and treatment strategies for Group B Streptococcus in early infancy. I then joined the Centre for International Health and Development at ICH (a precursor of the UCL Institute for Global Health where I currently work), living and working in Malawi for 4 years on a large randomised controlled trial of community women's groups and health facility quality improvement aimed at reducing maternal and neonatal mortality. During this time I also completed a PhD in Health Economics part-time, where I investigated benefits and costs of the women's group intervention related to quality of life as well as novel methods of measuring them. I passed my Viva with no corrections in October 2012. Since 2011 I have worked on a variety of grants related to childhood pneumonia, maternal and newborn health, nutrition, disability, and health systems, first as a co-investigator and then as principal investigator (please see my research summary below). In 2013 I was appointed Lecturer in Global Health Epidemiology and Evaluation and I began to teach on a wide range of modules. In 2017 I was promoted to Senior Lecturer, and rebadged as Associate Professor in 2018. In 2021 I was promoted to Professor.

Research Groups
Research Themes
Research Summary

My research focuses on maternal, newborn and child health, and health systems interventions in communities and health facilities in Africa. I have expertise in impact, process and economic evaluation methods, quantitative analysis, health systems and quality improvement. My current research includes work evaluating interventions for childhood pneumonia in Nigeria, and Malawi, evaluation of a multi-country quality improvement network with a focus on Bangladesh, Malawi, Uganda and Ethiopia (MRC Health Systems Research Initiative grant), and an ambitious GRCF-funded health systems modelling project Thanzi La Onse, which aims to inform priorities for the Malawian government’s 2022-2027 Health Sector Strategic Plan III.

I have interests in quality improvement and health systems interventions, participatory community interventions, and preconception health, among other areas of global health. Previously I've worked on six large projects. An ESRC-funded project to understand political and institutional conditions for people with disability in Liberia. An evaluation of cash transfers and fresh food vouchers and other interventions to improve childhood nutrition in Pakistan, Niger and Somalia. A Gates-funded study of the impact of the new PCV-13 pneumonia vaccine on all levels of the health system in two districts of Malawi. An EU FP7-funded project on Missed Opportunities in Maternal and Infant Health in Africa, specifically those related to post-partum care for mother and baby. A DfID-funded project called Evidence for Action on Maternal Mortality which is focusing on building community and district-based evidence in six African countries including Malawi for advocacy to improve maternal mortality by also encouraging local and national governments to be more accountable to their people. A Wellcome Trust Strategic Award looking at comparisons between women's group and other interventions aimed at reducing maternal and neonatal mortality, and looking at various methods including meta-analysis, costing and economic evaluation, verbal autopsy and community birth and deaths surveillance systems in six sites in Malawi, India, Bangladesh and Nepal. 

Prior to these projects I worked on a large randomised controlled trial of community and facility interventions to improve maternal and neonatal mortality in Malawi, where I was based from 2007-2011.


I contribute (/have contributed) to a number of international expert groups including Countdown to 2015 for maternal, newborn and child survival, and WHO expert groups on childhood pneumonia, integrated management of newborn and childhood illness, quality improvement, and maternal mortality. 

Teaching Summary

I teach on a variety of postgraduate modules at the UCL Institute for Global Health:

Masters in Global Health and Development, current teaching: Evaluating Interventions (I created this module and lead it), Perinatal Epidemiology and Maternal Health (I lead this module), Collecting and Analysing Survey Data Essentials of Quantitative Research, Essentials of Global Child Health 

Masters, have previously taught on: Research Methods: Evidence for Global Health (core module), Concepts and Controversies in Global Health (core module), Health Systems in a Global Context (core module), Key Principles in Health Economics, Economic Evaluation in Health Care.

Undergraduate intercalated BSc in Global Health, previous teaching: Health Poverty and Disease, Global Health Policy

In 2015 I successfully completed the UCL Arena Two course, earning my Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).

Prior to my appointment as a Lecturer in 2013 I also designed and ran free short courses to teach statistics and research methods to my colleagues in Malawi in 2010 and in Nepal in 2011.

01-OCT-2021 Professor of Global Health Systems, Epidemiology &Evaluation Institute for Global Health UCL, United Kingdom
01-OCT-2017 – 30-SEP-2021 Senior Lecturer in Global Health Epidemiology and Evaluation Institute for Global Health UCL, United Kingdom
02-SEP-2013 – 30-SEP-2017 Lecturer in Global Health Epidemiology and Evaluation   UCL Institute for Global Health, United Kingdom
28-JUN-2012 – 01-SEP-2013 Research Associate   UCL Institute for Global Health, United Kingdom
06-FEB-2007 – 27-JUN-2012 Research Assistant Centre for International Health and Development UCL Institute of Child Health, United Kingdom
01-JUN-2005 – 31-JAN-2007 Research Fellow Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics UCL Institute of Child Health, United Kingdom
Academic Background
2012   Doctor of Philosophy University College London
2004   Master of Science London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
2003   Bachelor of Science (Honours) University College London
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