Prof Cathy Zimmerman


London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
LSHTM Keppel Street
United Kingdom

I am a behavioural and social scientist who has been leading research on human trafficking, migration, gender-based violence and health for over two decades. I am a founding staff member of the Gender Violence & Health Centre. My research focuses on the health, safety and services for survivors of human trafficking and gender-based violence, and at-risk adult and child migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. I and my colleagues have produced ground-breaking evidence that has contributed to policies and programming in various locations, including Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Ethiopia, the United Kingdom and multiple European countries. My work has been recognised for its impact, for example via LSHTM REF processes and the ESRC (… and…).

My current research programme (Invisible Girls) focuses substantially on child domestic workers in Myanmar (funded by MILLBY Foundation, ~£1.2 million). I am also leading a multi-site study on research ethics for youth in risk situations (Guyana, Nepal, Kenya, Indonesia). Additionally, I am a currently co-investigator on studies on labour exploitation (Ethiopia) and violence against women and mental health (India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan). The Invisible Girls programme in particular, has growing influence, for example, on the International Labour Orgranization's measurements included in their international child labour survey instrument, the US State Department's recent funding calls for research on child domestic work and the anti-trafficking organisation, Freedom Fund's programming focus.

My previous European studies generated the first data on the health risks and outcomes among trafficking survivors. My team's Mekong multi-site research remains the largest study on human trafficking and health, to date. And, our five-year DFID-funded evaluation of the International Labour Organization's "Work in Freedom" programme in South Asia is also the most robust anti-trafficking impact evaluation, which has influenced the erroneous use of pre-departure awareness campaigns. Previously, working with Kings College Institute of Psychiatry, we produced evidence for England's Department of Health to help the National Health Service (NHS) respond to the health needs of trafficking survivors. I am the lead author of the World Health Organization's WHO Recommendations for Interviewing Trafficked Women, IOM and LSHTM's Caring for Trafficked Persons: Guidance for Health Providers and produced other international resource materials for law enforcement, service providers and health professionals. I have also written and teach on equitable research partnerships: Before coming to LSHTM, I lived in Cambodia from 1993 to 1998 where I established the first local non-governmental organization against domestic violence against women and children.


Department of Global Health and Development
Faculty of Public Health and Policy


Health in Humanitarian Crises Centre


1. Content Director for PHDL.
- Oversee annual module materials development and Moodle website.
- Improve consistency across modules in content and Moodle page.
- Review reading for modules to suggest, e.g., decolonising approaches, updating reading within last decade, relevant websites, etc.
- Analyse individual module content and provide guidance for improvements
- Established and co-host a ‘PHDL community of practice’ to share DL delivery techniques
- Draft and edit guidance documents for teaching staff, review guidance for students.
- Coordinate with CELT to improve DL teaching techniques.

2. Transferable skills.
- Conceptual frameworks for research. Developed and teach multiple times per year this required seminar for PhD students. This seminar aims to, for example, help students develop and align their aim, objectives, consider the type of framework they might use for their study and how this influences their methods, and how to iterate on or adapt this framework throughout their study based on emerging findings.
- Equitable research partnerships. Developed and teach multiple times per year this seminar for PhD students. This seminar focuses on what is a fair, equitable and productive research collaboration, how to, for example, establish transparency, consider shared ethos, identify and balance power relations, and address relationship challenges and conflicts.

3. Conflict and health (distance learning)
- Contribute to marking, teaching and assessment development.

4. Staff Development
- Conceptual frameworks for PhD supervision. Developed and teach multiple times per year this seminar to help supervisors support their PhD students. This seminar aims to, for example, help staff support their students to develop their research ideas and conceptualise the relationships between their variables, exposures, outcomes, etc. The seminar offers supervisors ways to help students develop and align their aim, objectives, consider the type of framework they might use and how this influences their methods, and how to iterate on or adapt this framework throughout their study based on emerging findings.


1. Human trafficking. For the past two decades, my work has focused on the risks and determinants of human trafficking (sex and labour), prevention interventions, and for survivors, we have focused on health and a wide range of other (financial, legal, social) consequences of trafficking and survivor services, referral networks and legal and health policies. I also invest considerable time developing evidence-informed conceptual frameworks that have been used to support programming, intervention designs and academic scholarship. For this work, I collaborate with most of the leading international organisations working on trafficking, have participated in numerous expert committees, including in the UK and the US, and offer lectures for various academic courses.

2. Migration and health. My research and scholarship focuses on migration and health risks and protection interventions. This research and impact-oriented work is particularly related to higher-risk migration, including human trafficking, smuggling, refugees, asylum-seekers and unaccompanied minors. For this work, i have written one of the first published series (PLOS Medicine) on health and migration, was the lead author for the UCL-Lancet Commission Report on Migration and Health and drafted the LSHTM's Global Health Policy module session on migration and health.

3. Child domestic work (Millby Foundation, ~£1.2 million). I became interested in child domestic work (CDW) because, based on our evidence, the international dialogue was erroneously conflating this practice with human trafficking. We now have the world's most robust research programme and greatest number of publications specifically dedicated to child domestic work, including particular attention to measurement, systematic review of interventions for working CDWs, violence and health of CDWs, conceptual frameworks for interventions, amongst others. This work is relatively new, but has growing influence in policy-making, donor investments and on-the-ground programming. See above.

4. Research ethics for co-produced research with youth in risk situations (British Academy funding ~£300,000). Based on many ethical challenges and conundrums from past work with young trafficking survivors, unaccompanied minors and young migrants exposed to sexual violence, labour exploitation and other abuses, we are conducting research specifically focused on co-developing and field-testing (with youth) research ethics to produce ethical and safeguarding guidance for studies with youth in risk situations. We aim to secure engagement and uptake of this guidance via our expert groups of: a) researchers studying youth in risk situations; b) IRB/Ethics committee members; and c) British Academy Youth Futures award recipients.

5. Intervention development research methods for complex social problems. I have recently begun writing about, co-developed a funding application (for NIHR) with colleagues at UCL, and testing methods in our Myanmar work to advance research methods that are specifically focused on 'how' to conduct research that informs the design and prototype of a complex social intervention. That is, even the revised MRC evaluation guidance has very little methodological guidance on the techniques and how to achieve knowledge targets to have an evidence-based design for a complex intervention.
Research Area
Complex interventions
Adolescent health
Disease and Health Conditions
Mental health
Sexually transmitted infections
Wounds and injuries
Sri Lanka
United Kingdom
Cote d'Ivoire
Burkina Faso
East Asia & Pacific (developing only)
South Asia
Europe & Central Asia (developing only)
European Union
Sub-Saharan Africa (developing only)
Latin America & Caribbean (developing only)

Selected Publications

Human trafficking and violence: Findings from the largest global dataset of trafficking survivors.
Stöckl, H; FABBRI, C; Cook, H; Galez-Davis, C; Grant, N; Lo, Y; Kiss, L; ZIMMERMAN, C;
Journal of Migration and Health
Evaluations of Interventions with Child Domestic Workers: A Rapid Systematic Review.
KYEGOMBE, N; Pocock, NS; Chan, CW; Blagbrough, J; ZIMMERMAN, C;
International journal of environmental research and public health
The use of Bayesian networks for realist evaluation of complex interventions: evidence for prevention of human trafficking
Kiss, L; Fotheringhame, D; MAK, J; McAlpine, A; ZIMMERMAN, C;
Journal of Computational Social Science
Occupational health outcomes among international migrant workers: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Hargreaves, S; Rustage, K; Nellums, LB; MCALPINE, A; POCOCK, N; Devakumar, D; Aldridge, RW; Abubakar, I; Kristensen, KL; Himmels, JW; Friedland, JS; ZIMMERMAN, C;
The Lancet. Global health
Human trafficking and exploitation: A global health concern.
PLoS medicine
UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health.
Abubakar, I; Devakumar, D; Madise, N; Sammonds, P; Groce, N; ZIMMERMAN, C; Aldridge, RW; Clark, J; Horton, R;
Rigged or rigorous? Partnerships for research and evaluation of complex social problems: Lessons from the field of violence against women and girls.
ZIMMERMAN, C; Michau, L; HOSSAIN, M; KISS, L; Borland, R; WATTS, C;
Journal of public health policy
Health of men, women, and children in post-trafficking services in Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam: an observational cross-sectional study.
KISS, L; POCOCK, NS; Naisanguansri, V; Suos, S; Dickson, B; Thuy, D; Koehler, J; Sirisup, K; Pongrungsee, N; Nguyen, VA; Borland, R; Dhavan, P; ZIMMERMAN, C;
The Lancet Global health
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