Professor Joy Lawn (nee Herd) BMedci MB BS FRCPCH MPH PhD FMedSci

Professor Director of MARCH Center

About Joy Lawn

Ugandan-born paediatrician and perinatal epidemiologist with >25years experience, especially in Africa and for global burden estimation and large-scale policy and programme evaluation


Joy has lived and worked in many African countries, including  as a lecturer and neonatalogist in Ghana in the 1990s. She shifted to public health and global estimation working at the WHO Collaborating Center, CDC Atlanta, USA (1998-2001), and then at the Institute of Child Health, London, UK (2001-2004), completing a Masters of Public Health at Emory University, Atlanta and a PhD in perinatal epidemiology at University College London, UK. For ten years she was been Director Global Evidence and Policy for Gates Foundation funded Saving Newborn Lives (SNL) programme of Save the Children, working with governments and partners to scale up and evaluate newborn care including leadership in the Every Newborn Lancet series and Action Plan.

She has published over 150 peer reviewed papers, with a combined average annual citation of 600, as well as a range of chapters, books and policy relevant reports. Since 2004, Joy has coordinated the United Nation’s Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group’s (CHERG) Neonatal Team and coordinated the GBD Expert team for neonatal and congenital conditions, co-leading several Lancet series on newborn survival and stillbirths. She is on the scientific committee of Countdown to 2015 and co-chairs the Health Systems and Policy Working Group.

She is also a founding Board Member of Powerfree Education and Technology, a South African not-for-profit organization developing and testing innovative, wind-up technology to improve maternal, newborn and child survival, which has won awards and a number of grants. 




Co-organiser of the Foundations in Reproductive Health module for the MSc on RSHR, and contributing to teaching throughout the academic year for example on the DTM&H as well as supervising and co-supervising several PhDs. Currently no scope for new PhDs.


Her research is focused on RMNCH, ranging from burden estimation and life course epidemiology including improving the input data, through to implementation research and impact assessment.  She developed with Simon Cousens, the first national cause-of-death estimates for 4 million neonatal deaths, published in 2005 in The Lancet Neonatal series and WHO World Health Report. She also co-led The Lancet stillbirth series in 2011 and 2016 including developing WHO’s first national estimates of stillbirth rates, highlighting 2.6 million stillbirths worldwide. In 2011 she coordinated the first ever national estimates for preterm birth, published in Lancet (with Hannah Blencowe and Simon Cousens) and co-led the team for The Born Too Soon report, with over 50 partner agencies to outline the data and actions to address 15 million preterm births, garnering major media attention. Currently working on estimates of Group B Strep infections worldwide, with Anna Seale and others. She continues to work with teams of experts to improve lifecourse epidemiological, with increasing focus on impairment free survival. She works on improved health system measurement, intervention trials and a number of large scale evaluations.

Research areas

  • Child health
  • Clinical guidelines
  • Global Health
  • Health impact analysis
  • Health policy
  • Health services research
  • Health systems
  • International comparisons
  • Maternal health
  • Neonatal health
  • Perinatal health
  • Quality improvement
  • Reproductive health
  • Research : policy relationship


  • Epidemiology
  • Life-course epidemiology
  • Medicine
  • Policy analysis

Disease and Health Conditions

  • Sexually transmitted disease
  • Sexually transmitted infection
  • Syphilis


  • Least developed countries: UN classification
  • Sub-Saharan Africa (all income levels)

Other interests

  • Access To Medicines
  • Birth Defects
  • Burden Of Disease
  • Cause Of Death
  • Child Development
  • Child Disability
  • Child Mortality
  • Child Survival
  • Childhood Blindness
  • Childhood Disability
  • Community
  • Community Based Treatment Of Fever
  • Community Health Volunteers
  • Community Health Workers
  • Community health services
  • Congenital Malformation
  • Health Care Systems Evaluation
  • Human Resources For Health
  • Maternal And Child Health
  • Midwifery
  • Neonatal
  • Neonatal Encephalopathy
  • Neonatal Mortality
  • Neonatal Survival
  • Paediatrics
  • donor support
  • newborn
  • pregnancy
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