Global health

We aim to improve human physical and mental health through interdisciplinary research in areas which can have the greatest impact.

Globally, health systems are coping with multiple challenges. Communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis remain a priority but systems must also contend with a rise in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, cancer and mental illness. The battle against anti-microbial resistance is a growing concern for global health policy and requires modification of behaviours at many levels of the health system. 

A key barrier to tackling many global healthcare challenges is health inequalities. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than half the world’s population is unable to access essential health services. The lack of care is compounded by a rise of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, cancer and, diabetes and mental illness.

In addition, combating communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis remains a global priority, while the battle against anti-microbial resistance has become an increasingly urgent concern for global health policy. In addition, poor mental health is affecting millions of lives, and the treatment gap remains huge. 

In response, a focus on universal health coverage has become a main feature of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To meet this goal we need:

  • Improved access to affordable cost-effective care
  • Strengthened health systems, responsive to emerging diseases
  • Systems that can be sustained within available resources

Research undertaken through the global health theme aims to mobilise inter-disciplinary collaborations to address these challenges.

Major projects

We are currently pursuing six major interdisciplinary initiatives:

Interventions to mitigate anti-microbial resistance (AMR)

AMR is viewed by the World Health Organization as a major threat to maintaining developmental progress against a range of high impact diseases. AMR threatens to undermine international efforts to achieve the UN SDGs for health. In response, we are mobilising interdisciplinary strengths in AMR which include developing new compounds and therapies, improving diagnostics, bringing about behaviour change, reducing infection rates and understanding microbe defences.

Global mental health

Mental health is a highly neglected area of global health research, policy and action. According to the WHO, over one billion people worldwide have a mental, neurodevelopment or substance use disorder, but global prevalence data is poor The global burden of disease attributable to mental health conditions has risen in all countries, and the delivery of evidence-based care is seriously lagging. Alongside the burden of poor mental health, are major challenges of stigma, suicide risks, human rights violations and access to housing and work. 

To address this challenge, we are drawing upon psychiatry and psychology, arts and humanities, technology and health policy to investigate the extent and experience of mental health conditions in low-and middle-income countries and the potential of co-designed public health and primary care interventions to develop mental health literacy, improve care, reduce mental health stigma and advocate for better policy to support population mental health and well-being.

Cancer care in low-and-middle income countries (LMIC)

Globally, health systems have not keep pace with changing disease profiles and challenges of managing chronic diseases. Non-communicable diseases are predicted to dominate the disease burden in low to middle income countries as they do in other parts of the world. The incidence of various cancers is rising rapidly in these countries with mortality rates that are far higher than in established systems.  

We are mobilising resources to investigate primary care approaches (including dental care) to prevention and early diagnosis. These build on existing collaborations at Leeds and with external partners in cancer pain management and palliative care.

Governance and financing to deliver pro-poor systems

Health financing improves access to health services amongst vulnerable populations. Alongside improved governance, better financing can also help create services and resources which are more responsive and equitable. The health SDG explicitly recognises the importance of financing to ‘achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all’. Yet, the determination of resources is a deeply political process.

Together with international partners, we are investigating current global ‘strategic purchasing’ initiatives in low-and-middle-income-country contexts. This will determine how to strengthen health system performance and health delivery.

Global health and migration

Migration poses many key challenges for health systems, particularly in low to middle income countries. The World Migration Report estimates that around a seventh of the world’s population now lives in a different location to where they were born. This movement (both demand and supply side) poses a number of key challenges for health systems. 

As researchers from different disciplines, we are studying key issues involved in migration and health to better understand the positive and negative impacts of migration on healthcare. 

Low-cost surgical solutions for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)

The Lancet commission on surgery highlighted the huge gap between current surgical need and delivery of cost-effective surgical services in low resource settings. 

The NIHR global surgeries project is developing new collaborations in North East India and Sierra Leone that focus on low-cost surgical solutions to diagnose and treat high burden NCDs. The work is now being extended in partnership with the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa and Royal College of Surgeons Ireland. The programme is a collaboration between surgeons, health economics, clinical trials and international public health.

Climate (planetary health) and the SDGs

The WHO has estimated that 55 billion Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) and 1.7 million deaths in the last decade were attributed to climate change, with the latter expected to rise to 2.5 million by 2030. There is increasing evidence that certain mental health problems are associated with the effects of climate change, as communities struggle to cope.  

We are examining a more planetary response to the complex and multidisciplinary health challenges generated by climate change and environmental degradation.

Key people


Professor Tim Ensor, Professor of International Health Systems Research

Professor Garrett Wallace Brown, Chair in Global Health Policy

Specialist academic leads

Interventions to mitigate anti-microbial resistance – Dr Rebecca King

Global mental health – Dr Siobhan Hugh-Jones

Cancer care in Low-and-Middle Income countries – Dr Matt Allsop

Governance and financing to deliver pro-poor systems – Professor Garrett Wallace Brown

Global health and migration – Professor Tim Ensor

Low-cost surgical solutions for Non- Communicable Diseases (NCDs) - Professor David Jayne

Climate (planetary health) and the SDGs – Professor Lea Berrang-Ford

Contact Us

If you would like to work, partner or collaborate with us, or want to know more about the research we are involved with, email