Dr Val Curtis

Reader in Hygiene

About Val Curtis

Books: Don't Look, Don't Touch, the Science behind Revulsion, OUP, 2013           Gaining Control: How Human Behaviour Evolved, OUP, 2015


Val is Director of the Environmental Health Group, a multidisciplinary group dedicated to improving hygiene, sanitation and water (WASH). She is trained in engineering, epidemiology and anthropology and studies human behaviour from an evolutionary perspective. 




Val organises the Design of Disease Control Programmes in Developing Countries MSc Module. She also teaches on the Tropical Environmental Health Study Module and gives an annual public health lecture at LSHTM. She also teaches on Global Health Masters courses at Imperial College.


Val leads the WASH work of the Environmental Health Group and pioneers a new approach to changing behaviour called Behaviour Centred Design. BCD combines the latest in behavioural science with a design process for developing and testing novel interventions. This has been applied successfully to novel interventions promoting handwashing, food hygiene, infant nutrition and exercise in Africa, Asia and in Europe as well as to product design, and is now being applied to sanitation and HIV related behaviour. SuperAmma is a recent successful handwashing promotion programme in India. 

See Val's TED talk on how behaviour settings control what we do.

Val has studied and written about the evolution and function of disgust and its relationship to hygiene, manners and morality. She discusses why this matters in this Huffington post interview.

Val helped found the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap, is on the steering committee of the Toilet Board Coalition and advises public and private sector organisations on behaviour change.

Research areas

  • Behaviour change
  • Hygiene
  • Sanitation
  • Water


  • Anthropology
  • Epidemiology

Disease and Health Conditions

  • Diarrhoeal diseases

Other interests

  • Evolution
  • Human Behaviour
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