Royal recognition for ‘Queen of Hygiene’ Professor Val Curtis

WaterAid’s President’s Award posthumously awarded to LSHTM behavioural scientist who devoted her life to championing hygiene and sanitation
Professor Val Curtis

Professor Val Curtis – who passed away last month – has been posthumously awarded WaterAid’s President’s Award. The award is the highest honour the international charity can give, and is acknowledged and signed by its President, HRH The Prince of Wales.

Val was the Director of the Environmental Health Group at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and was known as ‘The Queen of Hygiene’ by friends, fans and colleagues. 

Over an incredible career of more than 30 years, Val led research that put hygiene behaviour change including handwashing on the political agenda across the world, and advocated that decent toilets be made normal for everyone, everywhere. As part of this ceaseless quest to bring sanitation, hygiene and knowledge of how to maximise their protective powers to every corner of the world, Val became the only person ever to give a speech at the United Nations featuring a plastic poo.

Val co-developed an approach known as Behaviour Centred Design to create and test interventions in hygiene, sanitation and other behaviour-related issues, which has informed robust behaviour change programmes in many low- and middle-income countries, as well as the response to COVID-19 globally. These programmes have in turn helped save thousands if not millions of lives.

WaterAid colleagues worked closely with Professor Curtis to fight for hygiene; establishing the Sanitation Hygiene Action Research for Equity (SHARE) consortium; publishing joined papers and initiating numerous think tank events. The charity also collaborated with Val on behaviour-centred approaches to which have been implemented within hygiene programmes across the majority of the 28 countries which WaterAid works in.

Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive, WaterAid, said: “There is no question that Val deserved to receive WaterAid’s highest accolade. She devoted her career, her life really, to our shared purpose;  reaching everyone, everywhere with good hygiene and decent toilets. Her death is not only a personal loss to many at WaterAid who have worked closely with her, but a huge loss to the water, sanitation, hygiene and health sectors. She truly changed thousands – if not millions – of lives.”

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