Spotlight on Implementation Science: forging the urban space to address the needs of poor children and adolescents

May 31, 2018

Headshot of Ester Elisaria, PhD, MSc, Research Scientist at Ifakara Health Institute

Ester Elisaria, PhD, MSc

Ester Elisaria, PhD, MSc, currently serves as Tanzania Study Director on a three-country assessment of child and adolescent urban nutrition in East Africa, an effort currently supported by USAID’s Health Evaluation and Applied Research Development (HEARD) Project. The assessment is intended to inform future child and adolescent nutrition implementation science and intervention activities in rapidly expanding urban informal settlements in the region and beyond. On May 2-4, 2018, the three study implementation teams from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda came together for a workshop hosted at UNICEF’s regional office in Kenya to discuss the present assessment opportunity and a broader set of opportunities for collaboration in implementation science for urban health in East Africa. The following are excerpts from an interview about this work with Dr. Elisaria.


What about this assessment excites you? What do you identify as the opportunities?

I am excited because I have worked with the Ministry (in Tanzania) and I have worked with UNICEF, but for a long time the focus has been on children and mothers, and adolescents have been completely ignored in the process. Seeing this project bring adolescents into the perspective, in particular adolescents in poor settings, is a really exciting development. In addition, this is a new area of work for me here in Tanzania, and collaborating with colleagues from Kenya, Uganda, UNICEF and other stakeholders is enhancing our learning.

What are some of the challenges and how do you think this partnership and this specific assessment might help break down those barriers?

The barrier we’re seeing now is the non-existence of data, particularly in urban poor settings. In Tanzania, we have most of the data aggregated in terms of urban and rural, but there is very little known about variations within urban and rural areas. I think that having people from different countries and areas of expertise will help us, especially when learning from Kenya’s example, where they have advanced in terms of mapping urban slums. They are also studying relevant indicators, which is an area that we in Tanzania are interested in too.


Ester Elisaria, PhD, MSc, is a Research Scientist in the Health Systems Impact Evaluation and Policy Analysis Thematic Group at Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania. She has worked extensively in nutrition, public health and epidemiology program implementation. At Curtin University and Curtin College in Australia she teaches four units, manages 200 undergraduate students and supervises four master’s students per year.