ⓘ Anthony Costello is a British paediatrician. Until 2015 Costello was Professor of International Child Health and Director of the Institute for Global Health at ..


ⓘ Anthony Costello

Anthony Costello is a British paediatrician. Until 2015 Costello was Professor of International Child Health and Director of the Institute for Global Health at the University College London. Costello was most notable for his work on improving survival among mothers and their newborn infants in poor populations of developing countries. From 2015 to 2018 he was director of maternal, child and adolescent health at the World Health Organisation in Geneva.


1. Early life and education

Costello was born in Beckenham, and graduated from school at St Josephs Academy, Blackheath. Costello attended St Catharines College, Cambridge where was awarded a degree in Experimental Psychology and qualified as a doctor in Medical Sciences after clinical training at the Middlesex Hospital in London. He then trained in Paediatrics and Neonatology at University College London.


2. Career and research

After living in Baglung district in western Nepal from 1984–1986, two days walk from a road, he became interested in challenges to mother and child health in poor, remote populations. His areas of scientific expertise include the evaluation of cost-effective interventions to reduce maternal and newborn deaths, women’s groups, strategies to tackle malnutrition, international aid and the health effects of climate change. In 1999 he published a pioneering book on how to improve newborn infant health in developing countries.

With a Nepali organisation MIRA, that he helped to establish, a large community trial of participatory learning and action using women’s groups in the remote mountains of Makwanpur District, Nepal was published in The Lancet in 2004. He went on to establish partnerships and further studies with local organisations in East India, Mumbai, Bangladesh and Malawi. Seven cluster randomised controlled trials of women’s groups in Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Malawi, led to a meta-analysis published in the Lancet in May 2013.

Results showed that in populations where more than 30% of pregnant women joined the womens group programme, maternal death and newborn deaths were cut by one third. The intervention has now been recommended by the World Health Organisation WHO for scale-up in poor, rural populations.

Costello chaired the 2009 Lancet Commission on Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change, and was co-chair of a new Lancet Commission which links the UK, China, Norway and Sweden on emergency actions to tackle the climate health crisis, published in June 2015.

At WHO he has helped to lead the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health 2016‒2030 with its three objectives of surviving, thriving and transforming – to end preventable mortality, to promote health and well-being, and to expand enabling environments. Its guiding principles include equity, universality, human rights, development effectiveness and sustainability.

With the WHO team, Costello has also launched the global accelerated action for the health of adolescents AA-HA! and established an expert review group called Maternal and Newborn Information for tracking Outcomes and Results MONITOR to harmonize maternal and newborn health indicators.

In February 2017, together with UNICEF and United Nations Population Fund UNFPA, Costello helped to launch the Network for Improving Quality of Care for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health to introduce evidence-based interventions to improve quality of care for maternal and newborn health supported by a learning system. The Network aims to improve care in Ethiopia, Nigeria, India, Bangladesh, Malawi, Cote dIvoire, Uganda, Tanzania and Ghana. He also leads work on community empowerment for family health - what it means, how to measure it, and how to plan interventions at the district level.

Costello is co-chair of the Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change.

With UNICEF, he is helping WHO to coordinate a new Lancet Commission on redesigning child health for sustainable development goals.

In November 2018 he published the book The Social Edge. The Power of Sympathy Groups for our Health, Wealth and Sustainable Future. The book explains why a new science of cooperation is needed and suggests twenty two social experiments which use sympathy groups for resolving 21st century problems.


2.1. Career and research Awards

Costello holds fellowships of the Academy of Medical Sciences and of the Royal College of Physicians. He has also received Honorary Fellowships of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and of the Faculty of Public Health. In April 2011, Costello received the James Spence Medal, the highest honour of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health where he is a fellow. He serves on the Board of the global Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, chaired by Graça Machel. In May 2016, he received the BMJ Lifetime Achievement Award.

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