We are so Sad | Val Curtis Obituary

I was so very very sad to hear about the death of Val Curtis this week.

I only had three encounters with Val but they were all exciting and rich with ideas.

We got very close to working together on a research programme in Nigeria. The idea was to take the model she used for effective behaviour change in the SuperAmma Project and repurpose it linked to the work we were doing with Save the Children re: school health clubs in Shomolu, Lagos. Children are becoming agents of change and part of the strategy to reduce and prevent diarrhoea related illnesses.

Val was interested in working with us and with Save the Children in understanding the difference between behavioural change (adults) and behavioural development (children).

As has so often happened with research ideas linked to our work… we just couldn’t land the funding. But it was exciting to get close and also exciting to have someone of her status and experience recognise what useful and unique peice of work this would be.

She was an incredible lady who gave so much. Thank you Val.

Here is more on Val, an extract from her obituary in The Lancet:

One of the more offbeat of Professor Val Curtis’s achievements was to devise a taxonomy of disgust. The triggers of this universal emotion she discovered could be categorised as lying within one of six domains: sex, hygiene, food, animals, lesions, and atypical appearance. This classification was a serious endeavour with a scientific purpose. It supported a biological explanation for the evolutionary origins of disgust as a mechanism for directing behaviour that encouraged the avoidance of infectious diseases. Curtis’s interest grew out of her longstanding concern with the real-world link between water, sanitation, and hygiene and health. This concern made her a champion of the millions of people denied access to clean water and good sanitation.

As Director of the Environmental Health Group at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in the UK, Curtis saw herself not only as a researcher, but also an activist on behalf of a cause for which she had a heartfelt concern. Curtis’s passion for her topic engendered her research.

The SuperAmma Campaign

SuperAmma Campaign For Changing Hand Washing Behaviour is the culmination of years of behavioural science research to inculcate the habit of handwashing with soap. We designed a communication campaign based on the Evo-Eco theory of behaviour change.