Profile: Susan Watts

Dr. Susan Watts is currently coordinating the Social Determinants of Health Program at the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office of the World Health Organization in Cairo. Susan focuses on policy-related work in areas most closely related to her earlier research, in schistosomiasis, guinea worm disease and other diseases classified by WHO as neglected tropical diseases.

Susan earned her BA in geography from the University of Nottingham. She then engaged in field research in Uganda, studying resettlement schemes in Busoga and Bunyoro, in areas which had earlier been abandoned during trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) epidemics; this was the subject of her M. A. In 1977, after teaching several years in the United States, she went to Nigeria with her American husband (an historian) and taught geography at the new University of Ilorin until 1984. Her first research, on population circulation around the city of Ilorin, resulted in a Ph.D from the University of Liverpool in 1983. She worked with colleagues in the Ilorin Faculty of Health Sciences and with the Carter Foundation on patterns of water use and distribution associated with dracunculiasis (Guinea worm disease). As a research associate at the Social Research Center, American University in Cairo, between 1991 and 2005, she participated in two major community-based research projects in rural Egypt, on schistosomiasis (which resulted in a book coauthored with Samiha El Katsha), and on hepatitis C, in addition to consultant projects with USAID, international organizations and local NGOs.

Susan continues to find her SDH work a great challenge for a geographer, as the region stretches from Morocco to Afghanistan, and she must now look at health primarily through the lens of policy and policy implementation, rather than research. She continues to interact closely with former colleagues at the Social Research Center, American University in Cairo, where WHO Regional Office is supporting a project to develop a tool to measure health equity in the Region. Over the past three years work on SDH has moved from building a knowledge base to using this knowledge to develop policies to incorporate the social determinants of health in all health and social policies.*

Susan may be contacted at, or at

*See: PTitle=Publications

Updated: January 2009