Dr Ben Kasstan-Dabush
I am a medical anthropologist in the Department of Global Health & Development. My research interrogates ideas of health protection, what it means and according to whom. Over the past decade my research has explored social and religious engagement with childhood vaccinations, and sexual and reproductive health. My research has been published in discipline leading journals, including Social Science & Medicine, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, and Vaccine.
Since 2019, I have served as an Associate Editor at Anthropology & Medicine Journal. I am committed to translating social science research to develop informed policy. My research on vaccination has been cited in WHO COVID-19 vaccine implementation guidance; I have submitted research evidence to parliamentary inquiries and have been acknowledged in a range of parliamentary reports (most recently APPG Vaccinations for All); I have been commissioned to provide expert reviews of vaccination policy outputs by the UK Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology; and my research has been featured by GAVI – The Vaccine Alliance (Vaccine Works). I have experience of informing decision-making at multiple levels of health governance, from UKHSA to CDC, and my expertise has been sought after to shape national and global agendas on vaccine and health inequalities.
My substantive research expertise enables me to deliver research-led teaching. Since 2013 I have contributed new teaching units on global public health to undergraduate and postgraduate modules at Bristol, Durham, Sussex, Hebrew University, UCL. The breadth of modules I have taught include health inequalities, law and human rights. My approach to teaching is to offer diverse curricula that integrates rights-based issues of inequality and injustice in health and society. At UCL, I implemented innovative performance-based teaching techniques to inspire intercalating medical students to feel comfortable with social science perspectives on global health. Drawing on B!rth scripts commissioned by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, I encouraged students to narrate struggles around reproductive health and rights (abortion care, maternity provision) as a stepping-stone to delve into the ethnographic record on law, policy and health inequities. Alongside performance methods, I have integrated digital and collaborative tools in teaching to encourage and evaluate student learning, as well as assignments that include writing Blogs for publication to prepare students to communicate with a range of audiences.
I joined the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Vaccines & Immunisation (a collaborative research group involving UKHSA and LSHTM) in 2022 as a Research Fellow and then became Assistant Professor. I am developing research projects around vaccination delivery, programmes, and engagement in the UK. My expertise lies in critiquing religious engagement with global public health technologies, philosophies and policies. My recent work challenges public health dogma by illustrating that low vaccination uptake among religious minorities is less an issue of ‘beliefs’ than engagement with globalised discourse on vaccine safety and the political economy of healthcare. My research has had wider impact following the COVID-19 pandemic and transnational spread of poliovirus, and in 2022 I was invited to lead qualitative evaluations of public health responses in Rockland County, New York (CDC) and in London (UKHSA).
Prior to joining LSHTM, I was Vice Chancellor's Fellow at Bristol University, where I was examining how sexuality education is raising claims of a clash between different rights and ideas of health protection (e.g. sexual and reproductive rights, religious rights, parental rights, and rights to knowledge). This issue has become increasingly apparent amidst proposed changes to the teaching of sexual and relationships education (RSE), and I have an interest in understanding how new requirements around the teaching of RSE is being navigated among self-protective religious minority groups in Britain.