Researcher in Focus: Han Fu

Han Fu is a research fellow in infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a GHECO member. She tells us about her career, move into health economics and her time here at LSHTM.
An image of Han Fu sitting in front of a garden of flowers

Can you tell us a little about your background?

I originally studied an undergrad in public health and then a master’s in epidemiology at National Taiwan University; this is when I knew my interest lay in infectious disease epidemiology and modelling.

I then moved to London to do my PhD at Imperial College London. I focused on tuberculosis (TB) modelling in Taiwan, looking at different control strategies and evaluating their potential health impact. At this point, I first learnt about economic evaluation of infectious disease interventions and applied some of my learning to the assessment of universal Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccination in Taiwan.

My PhD was coming to an end when the COVID-19 pandemic began in January 2020. Joining the Imperial response team, I supported data collection to understand the case fatality of COVID-19 and the effect of non-pharmaceutical interventions in the early phase. I then conducted modelling analyses of health service disruptions due to COVID-19 on TB burden in India, the Philippines, South Africa and Moldova.

I also worked with local scientists to model the prioritisation strategies for COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Taiwan and presented the findings in a technical meeting with the Taiwanese government to provide evidence for decision-making.

That is really interesting, how did you find the transition into working on COVID-19?

There was a learning curve. I was used to working on TB, which is a chronic infection, meaning it takes a long time for the disease to develop and progress. With COVID, everything was progressing really quickly and we had different considerations when studying and responding to that.

But it gave me valuable experience and insight into what I wanted to do next. I realised my interest in exploring beyond TB research and expanding my skills and expertise in other areas. Firstly, I wanted to develop my understanding of vaccines as an intervention and their impact on health and secondly, to get more experience in health economics, which are both included in my current role in LSHTM!

You joined LSHTM in 2020, what have you been working on since you have been here?

I focus on understanding the health and economic impacts of measles vaccines in low-and middle-income settings, working closely with the Vaccine Impact Modelling Consortium. The consortium involves multiple vaccine-preventable diseases and modelling teams across the world. With Mark Jit and Kaja Abbas, we are one of the core modelling teams working on measles.

One of the important projects I’m working on is the microarray patches for measles-rubella vaccines. These patches do not require the use of needles, making them easier to administer and thermostable in delivery and therefore, more likely to be accepted by recipients and reach additional populations missed in the current needle-based programmes.

This vaccine innovation is currently in phase I/II trials. Our research aims to develop strategies for introducing these new vaccines in country immunisation programmes. We use modelling to assess the health and economic impacts and cost-effectiveness, which are key considerations for stakeholders in planning the implementation of needle-free vaccines.

It has been an excellent opportunity to better understand economic evaluation through this project. Working with other health economists, I’ve had the chance to learn from others and acquire new skills in doing health economics research.

I have enjoyed my time at LSHTM because it is a really collaborative environment. I can get involved with various projects that work with both internal researchers and external experts. It is a place where a lot of opportunities are.

Did you think you’d be involved in health economics when you first started your career?

It is something that developed later. I focused on epidemiology at the beginning. Later on, when thinking about the impact and implication of health research, I realised if we want to link our research to policy and practice, health economics would be helpful. Policy makers will be interested in knowing if it is feasible and financially realistic. They are interested in understanding the economic impact from a perspective other than just the health impact.

Infectious disease modelling and economics have been working together in research for a long time, but I was initially focused on one. I’d like to continue and expand my experience in the link between infectious disease modelling and health economics.

What impact do you hope your research will have in the future?

I’d like our research to help scientific and constructive discussions when used in policies, particularly vaccination and infectious disease control.

Personally, I’d like to work more in Taiwan, where policy decisions for infectious diseases don’t commonly take into account modelling at the moment. Connecting infectious disease modelling and economic evaluation with decision-making, I hope to bring different perspectives to the discussion of health policies.

You’re also involved in other roles, including coordinator of the early career researcher (ECR) group and co-organiser of the MEEV seminars as well as teaching at the School. Can you tell me more about those roles and what you enjoy about that aspect of your role?

Those roles are interesting but overall, it is very challenging in terms of time management.

As coordinators of the ECR group for the Centre for Mathematical Modelling for Infectious Diseases, we want to create a comfortable space for ECRs to connect and share sources for progress and development through meetings, group discussions, and career talks. It also provides me with great opportunities to get to know more people in the School.

With teaching, it is good to refresh some basic concepts and observe how people deliver the lectures and practicals differently, which is an opportunity to learn from others, and I enjoy that a lot.

I also co-organise the monthly seminars for Modelling and Economic Evaluation for Vaccines (MEEV). Currently, there are more MEEV presentations from the modelling side, but it would be great to develop this further to involve more of the economic perspective and more GHECO members.

How does being a GHECO member support your work?

The most benefit comes from collaboration. Many people I work with are also GHECO members. Being part of GHECO provides opportunities to get different inputs in my research.

I work on multidisciplinary projects, and they benefit from these inputs. It is also helpful in finding new and useful resources from others who have experience using them.

Fee discounts

Our postgraduate taught courses provide health practitioners, clinicians, policy-makers, scientists and recent graduates with a world-class qualification in public and global health.

If you are coming to LSHTM to study a distance learning programme (PG Cert, PG Dip, MSc or individual modules) starting in 2024, you may be eligible for a 5% discount on your tuition fees.

These fee reduction schemes are available for a limited time only.