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Dr Caroline Ackley

Dr Caroline Ackley

Dr Caroline Ackley (PhD, MA, BA)

Research Fellow in Medical Anthropology
T: +44 (0)1273 877817
Location: Ground Floor, BSMS Medical Research Building, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9PX

Area of expertise: Women’s health and community health with a focus on sexual and reproductive health, infectious disease, and neglected tropical diseases in the Greater Horn of Africa

Research areas: Utilising participatory and creative methods to work across and through power differentials to facilitate dialogue involving unexpected health stakeholders. Anthropology of the body, ethics and morality, the anthropology of Islam and postcolonial theory to better understand individual and community experiences of health.

Twitter handle: @AckleyCaroline



Dr Caroline Ackley holds a PhD in Medical Anthropology from UCL and has worked in the Horn of Africa since 2009. Her research is focused on women's health, whether that's life course development, maternal and perinatal experiences, or experiences living with skin NTDs. She seeks to understand how the influences of power, hegemony, structual violence, and inequality influence women's experiences through a ground-level ethnographic approach. She also utilises qualitative, participatory, and creative methods. More recently, she aims to use anthropological evidence for engagement with the public and to influence policy.

Caroline's current research is focused on the skin NTD mycetoma in Sudan as part of the NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Neglected Tropical Diseases. She works on medical anthropology approaches to community engagement as part of a work package on implementation research. As part of this she worked with a Year 4 medical student to theoretically reconceptualise women's experiences of vulnerability with skin NTDs.

Caroline was previously based in Harar, Ethiopia from 2017-2019 with LSHTM where she was the lead social scientist for the Hararghe Health Research Partnership, and led the social science component of the Gates funded study Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance (CHAMPS) in Ethiopia, as well as a Wellcome Trust funded study on stillbirth. She led a photo-voice project with mothers aimed at changing the narrative on health in the community by showcasing the ways women keep their children healthy and strong. She also led a Theatre for Development project where community members engaged in public discussion on causes of stillbirth.

Caroline explored women's life course development in Somaliland as part of her PhD studies from 2013-2018. She conducted 18 consecutive months of fieldwork in Hargeysa, Somaliland exploring women's life course as an entanglement of moralities, time, and selves. She ethnographically explored the relationships women have with their bodies, other women in the community, the divine, and their husbands. She was privy to discussions between religious leaders and female activists on the morality, religion, and policies surrounding female genital cutting. Caroline attended family and marriage classes called Qoys Kaab for young, unmarried women to prepare themselves for the next steps in their lives. She also joined a a mystical women's prayer group where we celebrated the powerful women of Islam through pilgrimages, chanting, and dance.


Caroline's research sits at the intersection of medical anthropology and global health. She has a particular interest in women's health with expertise in anthropological and qualitative methods in interdisciplinary settings. She enjoys working on participatory and creative research projects, and has partnered with local community groups in the Horn of Africa and in Brighton on several projects.

Current research

NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Neglected Tropical Diseases Research Fellow in Medical Anthropology working on medical anthropology approaches to community engagement in an implementation work package.

Selected previous research

Lamivudine (3TC) plus dolutegravir (DTG) dual-therapy: a study on patients’ experiences and perceptions The project explored patients’ experiences and perceptions of two and three drug regimes to treat HIV in Brighton, UK.

Child Health and Mortality Prevention (CHAMPS)
A Bill and Melinda Gates funded six country study in partnership with Emory University and LSHTM aimed at understanding and preventing child and maternal deaths. Worked closely with a multidisciplinary team consisting of paediatricians, obstetricians, nutritionists, epidemiologists, microbiologists, and lab pathologists.

Unlocking the Silence on Stillbirth
A Wellcome Trust funded study on maternal infection and stillbirth with a team of six Ethiopian social scientists. Implemented the participatory method of theatre for development in secondary schools, Hiwot Fana Hospital, and health centres Eastern Hararghe, Ethiopia on the topic of stillbirth. Developed a weekly health radio program in two languages that includes radio drama on community experiences of stillbirth, which airs on Radio Fana across Eastern Hararghe, Ethiopia.

Reconstructing Somalia’s Failed Nation State: Paths to Peace Building
A research study with Dr. Rahma Abdulkadir into the views of Somali women and men on proposed trajectories of political development.



Caroline currently teaches on the MSc in Global Health course at BSMS and supervise MSc students. She supervises Year 4 medical students on their Individual Research Projects (IRP). She also supervises one PhD candidate in Global Health as part of the NIHR Global Health Research Unit for Neglected Tropical Diseases. Finally, she is on two Annual Progression Review (APR) committees for PhD candidates in Global Health and Dementia Studies.

Caroline is interested in working with students who would like to utilise qualitative, participatory, or creative methods that engage marginalised, vulnerable, and underrepresented communities. She welcomes interest from students who would like to understand and break-down hierarches while taking a decolonising approach to their discipline. She is particularly keen to collaborate with students who would like to engage in the fields of medical anthropology, women's health, maternal health, child health, skin NTDs, and refugee studies.

Selected publications

Nasr Elsheikh M, Ackley C, Hall V and Zaman S. ‘Because people here are ignorant’: The failure of a community intervention to prevent mycetoma in Sudan [version 1; peer review: awaiting peer review]. NIHR Open Res 2023, 3:2

Degefa, K., Tadesse, A., Ackley, C. et al. Using traditional healers to treat child malnutrition: a qualitative study of health-seeking behaviour in eastern Ethiopia. BMC Public Health 22, 873 (2022).

Ackley Caroline, Ketema Degefa, Eyoel Taye, Nega Assefa, Mohamed Aliyi, Getahun Wakwaya. Things That Take from People’s Bodies: Rumours about Minimally Invasive Tissue Sampling and Evil Spirits in Ethiopia. Nordic Journal of African Studies. Vol 31, No 3 (2022) pg. 207-223. DOI:10.53228/njas.v31i3.925

Giovanni Villa, Diego Garcia Rodriguez, David Fray, Amanda Clarke, Caroline Ackley. Qualitative study exploring the experiences and perceptions of dolutegravir/lamivudine dual antiretroviral therapy (the PEDAL study) in people living with HIV: protocol. BMJ Open 2022;12:e056414. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-056414

Giovanni Villa, Diego Garcia Rodriguez, David Fray, Amanda Clarke, Caroline Ackley. Protocol for a qualitative study exploring the experiences and perceptions of dolutegravir/lamivudine dual antiretroviral therapy (the PEDAL Study) in people living with HIV. medRxiv 2021.08.13.21262001; doi:

Lohiniva AL, Heweidy I, Girgis S, Abouelata O, Ackley C, Samir S, Talaat M. Developing a theory-based behavior change intervention to improve the prescription of surgical prophylaxis. Int J Clin Pharm. 2021 Nov 20:1–8. doi: 10.1007/s11096-021-01338-8. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34800256; PMCID: PMC8605786.

Ackley Caroline, Elsheikh M, Zaman S (2021) Scoping review of Neglected Tropical Disease Interventions and Health Promotion: A framework for successful NTD interventions as evidenced by the literature. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 15(7): e0009278.

Seale AC, Assefa N, Madrid L Stefanie Wittmann, Hanan Abdurahman, Nardos Teferi, Letta Gedefa, Alexander Mohamed, Natnael Debela, Tseyon Tesfaye, Tigistu Samuel, Mehret Dubale, Hiwot Yigzaw, Eyoel Taye, Workalemahu Bekele,Caroline Ackley, Gutema Imana Keno, Yosef Zegeye, Zerihun Girma, Ketema Degefa, Berhanu Damisse, Adugna Tadesse, Mohammed Aliyi, Gurmu Feyissa, Yenenesh Tilahun, Getahun Wakwaya, Bizunesh Sintayehu, Getamesay Abayneh, Addisu Alemu, Emmanuel Azore, Joe Oundo, Zelalem T Mariam, Dadi Marami, Mulu Berihun, Mussie Berhanu, Mahlet Mekonnen, Andualem Alemayehu, Nana Sarkodie-Mensah, Shirine Voller, Boniface Jibendi, Abraham Aseffa4, Taye Balcha4, Robert F. Breiman. Scott Dowell, Asnake Worku, Tsigereda Kifle, Ebba Abate, Yadeta Dessie, J. Anthony G. Scott. Setting up child health and mortality prevention surveillance in Ethiopia [version 1; peer review: 1 approved, 1 approved with reservations]. Gates Open Res 2021, 5:173 (

Roelen, Keetie, Ackley, Caroline, Boyce, Paul, Farina, Nicolas and Ripoll, Santiago (2020) COVID-19 in LMICs: the need to place stigma front and centre to its response. European Journal of Development Research. ISSN 0957 8811. 

John Blevins, Elizabeth O’Mara Sage, Ahoua Kone, Maria Maixenchs, Pratima L Raghunathan, Rui A Guilaze, Saquina Cossa, Zerihun Girma, Yosef Zegeye, Caroline Ackley, Faruqe Hussain, Saiful Islam, Nellie Myburgh, Noni Ngwenya, Shabir A Madhi, Peter Otieno, Kennedy Ochola, Khátia Munguambe, Robert F Breiman, “Using Participatory Workshops to Assess Alignment or Tension in the Community for Minimally Invasive Tissue Sampling Prior to Start of Child Mortality Surveillance: Lessons From 5 Sites Across the CHAMPS Network,” Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 69, Issue Supplement_4, 15 October 2019, Pages S280–S290,