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Watson, Ph.D.

Principal Associate, International Development

Julia Watson is an economist and health systems specialist with 25 years of experience working on both developed and developing country health systems. She has extensive experience managing people and programs and collaborating with a wide range of partners. Her work focuses on improving health financing systems and strengthening the stewardship role of governments in mixed health systems.

Watson currently serves in the International Development Division as Senior Technical Advisor on Resource Optimization, primarily focusing on the Local Health Systems Strengthening project. She provides technical leadership and quality assurance on health financing and promotes joint learning across segments of the project.

Before coming to Abt, Dr. Watson held a variety of positions in the United Kingdom, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. She served in the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) for more than two decades. She provided thought leadership and technical advice on health systems strengthening and universal health coverage, with a focus on health financing and working with the private sector in health. She led development of evidence-based policy positions, including DFID's Health Systems Strengthening Position Paper, 2007 health strategy and 2013 Health Position Paper.


  • Health Policy & Systems
  • Institutional Effectiveness
  • Project Management

Key Projects

  • Local Health Systems Strengthening
  • Health Financing and Governance Project
  • DFID Health Systems Strengthening projects in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Ghana, Kenya


  • Eichler R, Agarwal K, Askew I, Iriarte E, Morgan L, Watson J. Performance-based incentives to improve health status of mothers and newborns: what does the evidence show?  J Health Popul Nutr 2013;31(Suppl 2):36-47.
  • Written evidence submitted by the Department for International Development to the International Development Committee inquiry into health systems strengthening.  UK Parliament 2014 (lead author)
  • Health Position Paper: Delivering Health Results. DFID 2013 (contributing author)
  • Health Portfolio Review and background evidence papers. DFID 2009 (contributing author)
  • Cassels A and Watson J. ODA/DFID Support to Health Sector Reform and Health Management: Synthesis Study. DFID 2001(ev594s)
Julia Watson, PhD