Intended for healthcare professionals


Val Curtis: public health researcher and activist

BMJ 2020; 371 doi: (Published 23 October 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4119
  1. Robert Aunger, associate professor in evolutionary public health,
  2. Oliver Cumming, head, environmental health group
  1. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT
  1. Robert.Aunger{at}
Credit: Aunger, 2020

Val Curtis served as the director of the Environmental Health Group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where she built a reputation as a world class researcher and passionate advocate for safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), leading a large and dynamic group of researchers.

Many people learnt of her illness through an article published in the Guardian.1 In characteristic fashion, she saw in her personal tragedy an opportunity to highlight a public health problem—in this case, the human impact of fiscal austerity on the NHS. Even in her final weeks, and despite her ill health and associated discomfort, she was an active member of SPI-B—the UK government’s Independent Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours for covid-19—and continued to serve as an adviser to the Indian and Tanzanian governments on their national sanitation campaigns, which she had helped design.

Multidisciplinary background

Her multidisciplinary background, spanning engineering, public health, and evolutionary anthropology, made her unusual in the department of disease control at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. …

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