Erica Nelson

Erica Nelson

Research Fellow

Erica Nelson is a historian and anthropologist with two decades of experience working on issues of community-based public health, health systems development, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the politics of knowledge in health research.

Her work focusses on the entangling of past and present, with a particular focus on critical examination of the unequal power dynamics and hierarchies of knowledge in global health and development as they have been shaped over time. She is a research fellow within the IDS Health and Nutrition Cluster and affiliate member of the Participation, Inclusion and Social Change Cluster.

Currently her efforts focus on: 1) integrating historical perspectives to research on development and international health cooperation (the AHRC-funded ‘Remembering and Acting on Malnutrition’ project; the British Library of Development Studies Legacy Collection, and the IFPRI-SPEAR funded work on histories of global nutrition 2) exploring dynamics of trust and brokerage in frontline health services and community-based health and food equity interventions (T-AP funded ‘Building Back Better from Below’); and 3) enabling community engagement and involvement in accountability, governance, and research processes in 21st global/local health and development (ongoing work with the National Institute of Health Research; forthcoming work on digital health governance transformation labs).  She is a member of the NIHR’s Community Engagement and Involvement Expert Advisory Committee and of the WHO’s CoP on Social Accountability in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. She is co-lead of the History Group of the Social Science Approaches for Research and Engagement in Health Policy and Systems (SHAPES) of Health Systems Global.

She has previously worked as a research fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s Centre for History in Public Health with a Wellcome Trust-funded project focussing on the historical development of community health worker programmes in Colombia (2018-2021). She has also contributed to the development of a four-year, multi-country adolescent sexual and reproductive health research intervention as a post-doc in medical anthropology at the University of Amsterdam’s Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (2010-2014). In addition to academic pursuits, she has consulted for the World Health Organization’s Reproductive Health and Research programme, for UCL Consultants, Options Consultancy and has worked at MSI Reproductive Choices.

She currently lectures on the Gender, Identity and Inclusion module; Ideas in Development module; and the Health and Development module. She co-convenes the Power and Social Perspectives in Development module with Marina Apgar. She is a guest lecturer at LSHTM and UCL, and a distance learning tutor for the Masters in Public Health course at LSHTM.

Erica is interested in prospective doctoral students who wish to work on issues of community-engaged and participatory approaches to health research, historically-informed approaches to development and global health research, and/or the politics of knowledge in health research. Relatedly, she would welcome hearing from students interested in taking a long-view of any sub-field of sexual and reproductive health and rights (policies, programmes, discourse, practice).

Erica’s LinkedIn:



The NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)

The NIHR Global Health Research Unit (GHRU) on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people affected by three highly neglected conditions in Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Sudan. In the current phase of the project, IDS is working with partners in these three...



Generating relationships of trust in distrustful times

According to a recent global survey  “distrust is now society’s default emotion”. Whilst this is a grand claim, it does emphasise the importance of placing trust at the heart of efforts to bring about positive change, as has been evidenced through the diverse projects of the Covid...

18 May 2022



Towards Digital Transformation for Universal Health Coverage

The Covid-19 pandemic has re-emphasised the need to ensure equitable access to safe, effective and affordable health services. The very rapid shift to the use of smartphone apps and telephone consultations (telemedicine) has highlighted the potential impact of digital innovations on the...

Gerald Bloom
Gerald Bloom & 6 others

1 June 2023

Journal Article

Social Accountability and Health Systems’ Change, Beyond the Shock of Covid-19: Drawing on Histories of Technical and Activist Approaches to Rethink a Shared Code of Practice

Background: Recognition of the value of “social accountability” to improve health systems performance and to address health inequities, has increased over the last decades, with different schools of thought engaging in robust dialogue. This article explores the tensions between health policy...

Erica Nelson
Erica Nelson & 3 others

29 March 2022

Erica Nelson’s recent work

Specialist short course

Empowering community engagement and involvement in global health research

This new in-person course offers an opportunity for participants to work through the thorny questions and challenges that arise when undertaking Community Engagement and Involvement (CEI) in practice. Find out more and apply now.

From 9 September 2024 until 13 September 2024