Research Priorities

AIGHD focuses on a dynamic research agenda that addresses urgent and ever-evolving challenges in global health and development. We are dedicated to conducting rigorous scientific research that informs policies and practices that improve health and well-being for all. While we work on a broad range of topics, we focus our efforts on seven thematic priority areas. Explore these research priority areas below, or read about our specific research projects.

Major achievements globally in the control and treatment of infectious diseases are threatened to be offset by increasing resistance to antiviral, antibacterial and antiparasitic agents. The spread of resistant micro-organisms has turned antimicrobial resistance into a major global health security issue. The causes and determinants of antimicrobial resistance are complex, involving biomedical, social and economic factors; its control requiring interventions that combine all these aspects. Under this theme, we aim to quantify the resistance problem, address its complexity and develop and evaluate approaches to curbing the development and spread of resistance for various infections, including HIV, common bacterial infections, tuberculosis and malaria.

Rising life expectancy and changing lifestyles are rapidly increasing the global burden of chronic diseases and conditions, bringing low- and middle-income countries on par with high-income countries. However, health systems in low- and middle-income countries are rarely adapted to long-term care, its costs often prohibitive for patients and families, resulting in communities struggling with the chronic health needs of its members. Under this theme we envisage gaining an understanding of these challenges, and helping to create new approaches to long-term care, focusing on (among others) HIV, cardiovascular disease and risk factors (e.g. hypertension), metabolic diseases (e.g. diabetes) and mental health (e.g. dementia).

Human development has been at the heart of economics for as long as the discipline has existed. Economics is concerned with the promotion and distribution of human welfare in the face of scarcity. This very broad agenda is studied both from an individual, micro perspective and a society-wide, macro point of view. Under the ‘economics of human development’ theme, we focus on the economic aspects of the many dimensions of human development, including those that are not directly health-related. This goes well beyond collecting and analyzing data on the costs and benefits of development interventions. We study more generally how circumstances shape people’s opportunities and choices, and what policy conclusions can be drawn from this.

Health care is offered in many modalities—public, private, formal, informal, for-profit, not-for-profit. The potential of engaging private for-profit providers to improve access to quality health care is largely untapped, requiring quality assurance and avoidance of out-of-pocket expenditures for patients and their families. Under this theme, we aim to study the role of private versus public health care, ways to improve and assure quality of care and approaches to ensuring universal health coverage.

While in low- and middle income countries non-communicable diseases are on the rise, major infectious diseases such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, various parasitic infections and viral hepatitis continue to be important causes of ill health, thus creating a double burden of disease. Despite the lack of effective vaccines, there is a global commitment to eliminating these diseases as public health problems, prompted by the availability of diagnostics and effective curative and preventive treatment. There are various challenges to this endeavor, ranging from acceptability of prevention and treatment, issues with adherence to therapy and poor performance of diagnostic assays to economic constraints for patients and health systems. Under this theme, we aim to explore these issues from biomedical, social and economic perspectives, and develop and test novel interventions to address them.

Migration from rural to urban areas is the largest movement of humans globally. Urbanization comes with many changes that can affect health and well-being: better access to care and (often) improved livelihoods, but also sedentary lifestyles, crowding, disruption of community bonds, violence and psycho-social stress. Urbanization may have major health impacts—in particular on youth and adolescents, as well as on the elderly. Under this theme, we aim to gain insights into the effects of urbanization on health and the syndemics of health problems that come together in rapidly urbanizing areas. We also envisage finding and evaluating solutions to these challenges that are multifaceted and multilevel, with behavioral, health system and urban planning components.

Mental health problems are a major contributor to the global burden of disease. This research priority area aims to improve mental health for the general population in low- and middle-income countries. We aim to do this through collaborative, interdisciplinary research, innovation, and education programs that contribute to strengthening access to comprehensive, affordable, and structural mental health services – including universal, selective and indicated prevention and intervention – within health and education systems and social sectors. A core strength of this research area is the focus on syndemic interactions between mental health and other health problems (e.g. HIV, Covid, diabetes, perinatal health) and social issues (e.g. poverty, violence, teenage pregnancies), in a context of gender- and intergenerational socioeconomic inequality. The research priority area understands mental health as a global public good and a human right and intrinsically linked to development.