Val Curtis Memorial Fund

Val Curtis

The Val Curtis Memorial Fund remembers and celebrates the life of the extraordinary, pioneering LSHTM Professor Val Curtis.

Although Val's ambition and drive cannot be replaced, her marching orders were to ensure that the work to achieve global hygiene goals continues. Please consider making a gift to enable the next generation of global health leaders to take up the challenge and continue her legacy.

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Donations to the fund support scholarships and grants to train the next generation of global health leaders in water and sanitation who will continue Val's inspiring legacy.

Val Curtis: Agenda-setting Hygiene Queen

Professor Val Curtis passed away in October 2020, due to cancer, at the age of 62. She was the Director of the Environmental Health Group at LSHTM, a fierce old battleaxe (in her own words), and an inspirational professor, colleague, teacher, mother, friend, and life partner. She mentored a generation of researchers and practitioners in hygiene and sanitation and was a special inspiration to young women seeking professional careers in public health.

Val was as effective in her communication as in her research, a rare combination that was recognised in 2009 when she was awarded "Health Communicator of the Year" by the British Medical Journal. All who knew her will remember her favourite topic was disgust, which proved a perfect springboard to enable her to communicate complex scientific theory in an engaging and contagious way, as she shocked and enlightened her audience at the same time. Her determination to drive conversations about hygiene, public health, and disgust, pushed hygiene up the global health agenda and earned her the title of The Queen of Hygiene. She played a critical role in having hygiene included under the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, co-founded the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing, helped to found Global Handwashing Day, co-developed the Behaviour Centred Design model for behaviour change, and worked with organisations in over 70 countries on the design and evaluation of innovative WASH interventions.

Val had a multidisciplinary background, spanning engineering, public health, and evolutionary anthropology. Her research interests progressed from epidemiological studies to a deeper understanding of human behaviour and motivation to design interventions that more effectively combat the spread of diseases. She made significant intellectual and practical contributions to water and sanitation, almost single-handedly ensuring that hygiene became an equally recognised part of the WASH field. She was also one of the first 'disgustologists,' or academics devoted to explaining this ancient emotion, being the primary instigator of the hypothesis that disgust could be explained as an evolved response to environmental threats of disease. Her ability to bridge fundamental theoretical work with designing and implementing on-ground health interventions, especially in lower-income countries, was highly unusual and unmatched. Val was especially committed to making an impact in Sub-Saharan Africa, having lived and worked in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Burkina Faso, where she raised her children in their early years, and in India, where she considered her contributions as a behaviour change advisor to the nationwide Swachh Bharat campaign to end open defecation as one of the great privileges of her life.

"Professor Val Curtis was much more than a researcher; she was a public health activist who believed that good research when combined with effective advocacy could transform lives. Her research – and activism – on hand hygiene, in particular, has shaped policy and practice around the world, providing compelling evidence for how basic interventions have the potential to save lives and prevent a range of infectious diseases. The Val Curtis Memorial Fund will ensure that her important legacy continues through supporting scholarships and grants to train the next generation of global health leaders in water and sanitation."

Professor Liam Smeeth, LSHTM Director

Fundraising events and activities

In 2021 Val's family held a charity cricket match to raise funds for the Val Curtis Memorial Fund.

Family and friends of Val Curtis sitting at a cricket match

Val's family and friends organised another charity cricket game on Sunday July 17th, 2022, on Lindfield Common, and intend to organise another cricket game in July 2023, to which colleagues and supporters will be invited.

Her children, Naima and Abi, will also be cycling the London to Brighton Bike Ride for the Memorial Fund on September 11, 2022, and you can donate to their JustGiving page.

For further information about getting involved or supporting the fund, please email

"No one has done more to put hygiene on the global health agenda than Professor Val Curtis, or to define its intellectual foundations. Through careful research and powerful advocacy, she inspired a generation of researchers and has transformed how we think about hygiene-related behaviour change and public health. Her legacy is far-reaching and will be felt for decades to come."

Parameswaran Iyer, Programme Manager of the 2030 Water Resources Group