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Centre of African Studies: People


Jennifer Palmer

Jennifer Palmer
Dr Jennifer Palmer
Research Fellow, Investigating Networks of Zoonosis Innovation (INZI)
4.13 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
Research Interests
Humanitarian intervention, South Sudan, trypanosomiasis, diagnostics, elimination, Medical anthropology


I am a medical anthropologist and operational researcher based part-time in the Centre of African Studies. I am also based part-time at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) where I co-direct the Health in Humanitarian Crises Centre.  I conducted my PhD at LSHTM on case-detection in human African trypanosomiasis (HAT, sleeping sickness) in post-conflict South Sudan. I hold a BSc, Hon in Microbiology & Immunology from McGill University and completed an MSc in Control of Infectious Diseases at LSHTM. I have also worked with non-governmental organisations in post-conflict and emergency contexts in Africa and Asia.

Research interests

I am broadly interested in health policy, development coordination and the implementation of health programmes in humanitarian settings.

As part of the ERC-funded Investigating Networks of Zoonosis Innovation project, I seek to understand how knowledge and innovations are shared across local, national and transnational networks to achieve control of African trypanosomiasis. This includes a collaboration with the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), the University of Busitema and the national HAT programme in Uganda to understand how rapid diagnostic tests for HAT are being used by health worker, patient and refugee communities across local elimination contexts. It also builds on my PhD work which combined anthropological and epidemiological methods to understand community disease discourses, patient treatment-seeking and health worker referral practices in the Nimule sleeping sickness focus of South Sudan. 

In the Centre for Maternal Reproductive & Child Health (MARCH) at the LSHTM, I collaborate with the University of Juba, on a study of the regulatory, policy and cultural environment surrounding access to family planning and abortion services which are key to reducing maternal deaths from unwanted pregnancy in South Sudan.

My previous research has included: a project funded by Sightsavers to map national eye health human resources and service provision in relation to VISION 2020 targets in sub-Saharan Africa; an ethnographic health systems project funded by CBM to explore local sustainability practices in eye care governance in the Lake Zone of Tanzania; a study on the sustainability of physical rehabilitation health systems in fragile states (Somaliland, Nepal, Cambodia, Sierra Leone & Liberia) with Handicap International; development of a method to estimate refugee/IDP populations using satellite imagery; and providing social science support on malaria projects with LSHTM's ACT Consortium.

Selected publications

Palmer JJ & Kingsley P (2016). Controlling sleeping sickness amidst conflict & calm: remembering, forgetting, and the politics of humanitarian knowledge in Southern Sudan, 1956-2005. In: Bennet C, Foley M & Krebs HB (eds), Learning from the past to shape the future: Lessons from the history of humanitarian action in Africa. Humanitarian Policy Group working paper series. Overseas Development Institute, London

Zuurmond M, Nyapera V, Mwenda V, Kisia J, Rono H & Palmer JJ (2016). Childhood disability in Turkana, Kenya:  Understanding how caregivers cope in a complex humanitarian setting. African Journal of Disability 5(1): a277.

Palmer, JJ & KT Storeng (2016). Building the nation’s body: the contested role of abortion and family planning in post-war South Sudan. Social Science & Medicine 168: 84-92.

Palmer, JJ, A Gilbert, M Choy and K Blanchet (2016). Circumventing ‘free care’ and ‘shouting louder’: Using a health systems approach to study eye health system sustainability in government & mission facilities of north-west Tanzania. Health Research, Policy & Systems; 14: 68.

Peprah D, Palmer JJ, Rubin GJ, Abubakar A, Martin S and Larson HJ (2016). Perceptions of oral cholera vaccine and reasons for full, partial and non-acceptance during a humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. Vaccine; 34(33): 3823-7.

Palmer, J.J. ; Kelly, A.H. ; Surur, E.I. ; Checchi, F. ; Jones, C. (2014). Changing landscapes, changing practice: Negotiating access to sleeping sickness services in a post-conflict society. Soc Sci Med; 120: 396-404.

Palmer, J.J. ; Surur, E.I. ; Checchi, F. ; Ahmad, F. ; Ackom, F.K. ; Whitty, C.J. (2014). A mixed methods study of a health worker training intervention to increase syndromic referral for gambiense human African trypanosomiasis in South Sudan, PLoS Negl Trop Dis; 8(3):e2742.

Palmer, J.J. ; Chinanayi, F. ; Gilbert, A. ; Pillay, D. ; Fox, S. ; Jaggernath, J. ; Naidoo, K. ; Graham, R. ; Patel, D. ; Blanchet, K. (2014). Mapping human resources for eye health in 21 countries of sub-Saharan Africa: current progress towards VISION 2020. Hum Resour Health; 12(1):44.
Palmer, J.J. ; Chinanayi, F. ; Gilbert, A. ; Pillay, D. ; Fox, S. ; Jaggernath, J. ; Naidoo, K. ; Graham, R. ; Patel, D. ; Blanchet, K. (2014). Trends and implications for achieving VISION 2020 human resources for eye health targets in 16 countries of sub-Saharan Africa by the year 2020. Hum Resour Health; 12(1):45.

Palmer, J.J. ; Surur, E.I. ; Goch, G.W. ; Mayen, M.A. ; Lindner, A.K. ; Pittet, A. ; Kasparian, S. ; Checchi, F. ; Whitty, C.J. (2013). Syndromic algorithms for detection of gambiense human African trypanosomiasis in South Sudan. PLoS Negl Trop Dis; 7(1):e2003.

Checchi, F. ; Stewart, B.T. ; Palmer, J.J. ; Grundy, C. (2013). Validity and feasibility of a satellite imagery-based method for rapid estimation of displaced populations. Int J Health Geogr; 12:4.