Dr Della Berhanu


Research Fellow

Keppel Street
United Kingdom

My main interest lies in system strengthening. As the Ethiopian Country Coordinator within the Informed Decisions for Actions (IDEAS) team I worked closely with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health and its partners. Along with my colleague Dr. Bilal Avan, we lead the evaluation of the Ethiopian Government’s Community Based Newborn Care programme, which includes antibiotic treatment of newborns with suspected bacterial infection by community health workers.

As a Dagu team member based within the Ethiopian Public Health Institute, I work on the development of  'Ethiopian excellence in public health evaluation’. Dagu evaluated the Optimizing the Health Extension Programme, which aimed to increase utilization of community based services for under 5 children.  In collaboration with four Ethiopian universities, Dagu has been training 9 PhD students, some of which have been recruited from the government’s regional health bureaus. I have co-supervised 2 of the PhD students who have defended their thesis, and currently support three additional students. I have also worked with the universities to improve their research operations and overall PhD programmes.

Through the Operational Research and Coaching of Analysts project, I am engaged in training, mentoring and coaching of staff form government institutions working in health. We run a serious of workshops and applied skills-building activities that follow the research process from problem formulation to their implication for health services and policy.

I have also worked at the National Institute for Health’ (NIH)

vaccine research centre for HIV. The work involved tissue culture, running assays and flow cytometry analysis. As a PhD student at the Johns Hopkins University, I ran a study on khat use in Ethiopia and its association with risky sexual behaviour, HIV transmission and CD4 T cell counts. 



Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases
Department of Disease Control


Within the IDEAS’ (funded by Bill and Melinda Gates foundation) evaluation of the Community Based Newborn Care programme, we conducted quality of care assessment which included a direct observation of community health workers’ management of sick young infants. We also assessed their young infant management skills through clinical vignettes. These results are currently being used by the ministry of health to improve CBNC programme implementation.

To improve the use of local health data for planning, we conducted the feasibility study for the Data Informed Platform for Health in Ethiopia, as a framework to bring together key data from public and private health sectors on inputs and processes that can influence maternal and newborn health. We plan to pilots such a platform in Ethiopia soon.  

While at NIH, I developed a protocol for the optimal isolation of lymphocytes for chemokine receptor expression, including those used for HIV attachment. With funding form NIH, my dissertation work assessed the changing pattern of khat use along with the taxonomy of khat. Furthermore, I investigated the perceived effects of khat use and the interplay between khat, alcohol and risky sexual behavior.

Selected Publications

Implementation of the 'Optimising the Health Extension Program' Intervention in Ethiopia: A Process Evaluation Using Mixed Methods.
Okwaraji YB; Hill Z; Defar A; Berhanu D; Wolassa D; Persson LÅ; Gonfa G; Schellenberg JA
International journal of environmental research and public health
Major gaps in child survival by ethnic group.
Schellenberg JRMA; Berhanu D
See more Publications