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Principal and Head of Health Practice, Abt Britain

Paul Smithson is Abt’s Senior Adviser for health, with expertise in health strategy, financing, and reform. He has more than 30 years of experience in developing countries spanning a range of roles including: specialist technical adviser; aid strategist and steward; programme manager, and institutional reform lead. Smithson has worked for a variety of national governments, international organisations, and nonprofits institutions. His core area of expertise is health system performance, and he was a pioneer of sector-wide approaches in health. He has worked extensively in Africa, with shorter spells in Asian countries.

Smithson leads the health practice for Abt Britain, with responsibility for developing strategy, nurturing the team, and delivering a growing portfolio of projects. He has published on diverse topics, including health sector reform, sector-wide approaches, mortality transition, demographic surveillance, evaluation methods, and malaria control.

Smithson previously led Abt’s health systems strengthening component of Accelerating the Sustainable Control and Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD), the Department for International Development’s (DFID) flagship NTD programme across 10 countries in Africa and Asia. His previous work includes 10 years in health advisory and senior advisory roles with DFID, where he played a pivotal role in the development of sector-wide approaches in Ghana and Tanzania. Smithson also spent 10 years at a leading African health research institute (Ifakara) at Director level. Smithson has also undertaken extensive consultancies for UNICEF, the WHO, Danida, Research on Poverty Alleviation, NORAD, Iris Aid and SDC.


  • Health planning and financing for universal health coverage
  • Organisation assessment and strategic change management
  • Strategy facilitation and development
  • Programme design, review, and evaluation
  • Cross-disciplinary approaches to health system strengthening

Key Projects:

  • ASCEND project “Accelerating Sustainable Control and Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases” (health systems component)
  • MNCH2, Northern Nigeria. (health planning, budgeting and organisation capacity component)
  • SuNMaP II (Nigeria), lead consultant/ governance strategy
  • Malawi Health Services Joint Fund [DFID/KfW/Norway], lead consultant/ review


  • Hershey, C. L., Bhattarai, A., Florey, L. S., McElroy, P. D., Nielsen, C. F., Ye, Y., ... & Smithson, P. (2017). Implementing impact evaluations of malaria control interventions: process, lessons learned, and recommendations. The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene97(3_Suppl), 20-31.
  • Smithson, P., Florey, L., Salgado, S. R., Hershey, C. L., Masanja, H., Bhattarai, A., ... & Tanzania Malaria Impact Evaluation Research Group. (2015). Impact of malaria control on mortality and anemia among Tanzanian children less than five years of age, 1999–2010. PLoS One10(11).
  • Kabadi, G. S., Geubbels, E., Lyatuu, I., Smithson, P., Amaro, R., Meku, S., ... & Masanja, H. (2015). Data resource profile: the sentinel panel of districts: Tanzania’s national platform for health impact evaluation. International journal of epidemiology44(1), 79-86.
  • Masanja, H., de Savigny, D., Smithson, P., Schellenberg, J., John, T., Mbuya, C., ... & Mshinda, H. (2008). Child survival gains in Tanzania: analysis of data from demographic and health surveys. The Lancet371(9620), 1276-1283.
  • Mills, A., Bennett, S., Russell, S., Attanayake, N., Hongoro, C., Muraleedharan, V. R., & Smithson, P. (2001). Health sector reform and the role of government. In The Challenge of Health Sector Reform. Palgrave Macmillan, London.
Paul Smithson