Research Team

Professor Megan Vaughan

Professor Megan Vaughan

Professor Megan Vaughan

Megan Vaughan was formerly Smuts Professor of Commonwealth History at the University of Cambridge and Professor of Commonwealth Studies at the University of Oxford. She is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Historical Society.

Megan Vaughan joined the Institute of Advanced Studies in October 2015 as Professor of African History and Health. Her work, which crosses disciplinary boundaries, has focused on the history of medicine and psychiatry in Africa, on the history of famine, food supply and gender relations and on slavery in the Indian Ocean region. Most recently she held a major AHRC award on the history of death and death practices in Eastern and Southern Africa. She is now working on a Wellcome Trust-funded history of epidemiological change in Africa, focusing on ‘chronic’ diseases. She began her career at the University of Malawi and maintains strong links there and elsewhere in the region. She is committed to working collaboratively with African scholars and institutions and is a past President of the African Studies Association of the UK.

Professor Vaughan holds a five-year Wellcome Trust Investigator Award in Medical Humanities to research Chronic Disease in Sub-Saharan Africa: a critical history of an ‘Epidemiological Transition’. The study is being carried out collaboratively with colleagues in Ghana, South Africa and Malawi and aims to produce a clearer historical analysis of the rise in incidence of non-communicable diseases in sub-Saharan Africa and a critical account of epidemiological change, contextualising this within a larger environmental, economic and social history.This is an interdisciplinary project involving public health experts, social epidemiologists, social psychologists, historians and anthropologists.

Among the issues we will be addressing are changing nutrition, the incidence of diabetes mellitus, obesity and ‘metabolic disorders’; the experience of co-morbidities; changing patterns of cancer in Africa; environmental health, ‘exposures’ and the role of epigenetics; the history of hypertension and heart disease and the relationship between infectious and non-communicable diseases. We work closely with the University of Ghana at Legon (Professor Ama de Graft Aikins, Vice-Dean of the School of Graduate Studies); Professor Moffat Nyirenda, Director of the Malawi Epidemiology and Intervention Unit, Lilongwe, Malawi; Medical Humanities at Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER), directed by Professor Catherine Burns; and the Africa Centre for Population Health, Mtubatuba, South Africa, directed by Professor Deenan Pillay.


Dr Kafui Adjaye-Gbewonyo

Dr Kafui Adjaye-Gbewonyo

Dr. Kafui Adjaye-Gbewonyo

Kafui Adjaye-Gbewonyo is a Research Associate with the Chronic Disease in Sub-Saharan Africa team focusing on social demography/epidemiology. Her interests are in the effects of socio-contextual and economic factors on health in African countries. While with the project, she hopes to use epidemiologic methods and models to understand and question the ‘epidemiological transition’ in Sub-Saharan Africa by examining and explaining trends in chronic diseases and their risk factors. This will include quantitatively testing hypotheses regarding change in chronic disease burden in Africa by analysing country-level estimates from sub-Saharan African countries over time, and/or by using microdata from population surveys and censuses conducted recently in Ghana, Malawi, and South Africa. Additionally, she hopes to test qualitative methods for collecting family histories of health and health behaviour through interviews in the project countries to explore chronic disease intergenerationally.

Kafui was previously a research fellow with the Lancet Commission on Reframing Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries for the Poorest Billion where she worked on the assessment of poverty and disease burden. She conducted postdoctoral research with the Innovative Methods and Metrics for Agriculture and Nutrition Actions (IMMANA) programme, examining links between agricultural trade policies and undernutrition in low- and middle-income countries while at the Regional Institute for Population Studies at the University of Ghana. She has also worked as a fellow in cancer prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US. Kafui received her Doctor of Science (2016) in Social and Behavioral Sciences from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health with a focus on social epidemiology, population health and quantitative research methods. Her dissertation examined the relationship between income inequality, social capital and risk factors for cardiovascular disease and depression in South Africa. Her previous training includes a master’s degree in public health and undergraduate studies in environmental science and public policy also from Harvard.