Director, IGHD


Division: Institute of Global Health and Development

Tel: 0131 474 0000

Professor Alastair Ager (BA, PhD, MSc) is the Director of the Institute of Global Health and Development. From 2017-2020 he served as Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Department of International Development.

  • Overview
  • Research Interests
  • Research Publications
  • Funded Projects
  • Teaching & Learning
  • Activities & Awards

Alastair Ager rejoined QMU as Director of the Institute of Global Health and Development in July 2015 after a decade working in the USA with the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University in New York, where he continues his affiliation as Professor of Population and Family Health.

Alastair has worked in the field of global health and development for over twenty-five years, after originally training in psychology at the universities of Keele, Wales and Birmingham in the UK. He was formerly Head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Malawi, Director of the Centre for International Health Studies at Queen Margaret University, and Senior Research Manager for the UK Department for International Development, with responsibility for the agency's global portfolio of health and education research. He has wide international experience as a lecturer, researcher and consultant across sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia, Europe and North America, working with a range of intergovernmental, non-governmental and governmental agencies.

He is a Board Member of the Antares Foundation (supporting the well-being of humanitarian workers), co-chair of the Olympic Refuge Foundation Think-Tank, member of Advisory Board of the elrha Research in Health in Humanitarian Contexts programme and, until recently, co-chair of the learning hub on resilience of the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities. He is author of over one hundred scholarly publications.

Professional Social Media:

Research/Knowledge Exchange Centre Membership:

Alastair is active in five major areas of research: the evaluation of humanitarian programming (particularly with regard to protection and psychosocial support of refugee children); health systems resilience in contexts of fragility (through work in West Africa, the Middle East and the Americas); the engagement of local faith communities in humanitarian response (in collaboration with World Vision, Islamic Relief, the Lutheran World Federation and the JLI); the adjustment and well-being of humanitarian workers (in collaboration with the Antares Foundation); and health research capacity strengthening. His work is currently funded by NIHR, the US National Institutes of Health, the ESRC and the AHRC. For further details go to

Active Research Interests:

  • Evaluation of humanitarian programming
  • Health systems resilience in contexts of fragility
  • The engagement of local faith communities in humanitarian response
  • Adjustment and well-being of humanitarian workers
  • Health research capacity strengthening


Please see my research publications in eResearch – Queen Margaret University’s repository

NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Health in Situations of Fragility (RUHF) at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

RUHF focuses on contexts where displacement, conflict, pandemic disease or weak capacity makes the delivery of health services especially challenging. Although its work seeks to be of wide relevance to delivery of healthcare in situations of fragility, RUHF focuses on two vital but commonly neglected areas of health provision in these contexts: mental health and psychosocial support and the treatment and prevention of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. RUHF Researchers at the QMU’s Institute for Global Health and Development (IGHD) work closely with the Unit's collaborative partners -the Global Health Institute, American University of Beirut (AUB), Lebanon, and the College of Medicine & Allied Health Science (COMAHS), Freetown, Sierra Leone.


Local Community Experiences of and Responses to Conflict-Induced Displacement from Syria: Views from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey 

This project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council. It aims to critically examine how, why and with what effect local communities in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are responding to mass displacement from Syria. The focus is to develop a greater understanding of the roles that religious values, beliefs and practices play both implicitly and explicitly in these responses. As one output of the project, Alastair is responsible – with Dr Anna Rowlands of Durham University – for the development of Religious Literacy Handbook for work in humanitarian and displacement-affected settings.


Channels of Hope for Child Protection

Alastair has been supporting the evaluation of strengthening community-based World Vision programmes seeking to mobilize local faith communities in promoting child protection. After pilot work in Malawi, impact research studies have been conducted in Senegal, Uganda and Guatemala.


Recently completed projects:

System resilience in UNRWA health provision to Palestine refugees displaced by the Syria crisis (Health Systems Resilience)

This research focused on the key vulnerabilities of UNRWA health systems in the face of disruptions associated with the displacement of Palestine refugees registered in Syria (PRS). The research project was funded by Elrha’s Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) Programme which aims to improve health outcomes by strengthening the evidence base for public health interventions in humanitarian crises. Visit  for more information.

The R2HC programme is funded equally by the Wellcome Trust and DFID, with Elrha overseeing the programme’s execution and management.

Find out more about Health Systems Resilience


Measuring the health & wellbeing impacts of a program of psychosocial intervention for refugee youth

IGHD worked with Yale University in this DFID-Wellcome Trust funded work examining the impact of Mercy Corps programming with Syrian and Jordanian youth which is part of the No Lost Generation initiative. The team looked at biological and cognitive markers of stress and resilience in youth attending a broad range of activities.


A Household Yeast Sensor for Cholera

NIH – Grant supporting development of novel cholera biosensor:

This work supported colleagues at Columbia University in the development of an innovative product for cholera surveillance and explores the product’s adoption, impact and cost-effectiveness when used in humanitarian- and low-resource settings.


Strengthening Evidence for the Scaling of Psychosocial First Aid (PFA) in Humanitarian Settings

Psychological first Aid (PFA) provides a mechanism to address mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) needs of acutely distressed people at scale in major humanitarian emergencies. This study looked at whether PFA enables stronger capacity to provide effective mental health and psychosocial support to those experiencing humanitarian crises and will not only gather evidence related to PFA in the specific context of West Africa and the Ebola crisis but also establish – through strong inter-agency engagement and regional consultation – a basis for wider, systematic, and rigorous evaluation of PFA impact.

Alastair contributes to a number of modules in the IGHD Masters programme, including areas such as Global Health Systems, Global Public Health and Psychosocial Intervention with Displaced Populations and leads the module Project Design and Management. Alastair welcomes enquiries for doctoral studies in the research areas outlined above.

Appointed Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2019