Anthony Costello

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Anthony Costello

Anthony Costello headshot.jpg
Anthony Costello, taken in 2016
Born (1953-02-20) 20 February 1953 (age 66)
Nationality British
Education St Joseph's Academy, Blackheath
Alma mater University of Cambridge, Middlesex Hospital
Known for Improving the health of newborn infants and mothers in developing countries
Awards James Spence Medal
Scientific career
Fields Pediatrics
Institutions University College London World Health Organisation
Doctoral students Joy Lawn[1]

Anthony Costello FMedSci FRCPCH FRCP (born 20 February 1953) 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.

Early life and education

Costello was born in Beckenham, and graduated from school at St Joseph's Academy, Blackheath. Costello attended St Catharine's 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.[2] He then trained in Paediatrics and Neonatology at University College London.

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.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5]

Results showed that in populations where more than 30% of pregnant women joined the women's 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.[6]

Costello chaired the 2009 Lancet Commission on Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change,[7] 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.[8]

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 intervention's 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, Côte d'Ivoire, 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.[9]

With the Lancet he is a co-chair of their new Countdown Commission on Climate Change which reports progress annually on climate change adaptation, mitigation, economics, energy policy and public engagement.[10] With UNICEF he is helping WHO to coordinate a new Lancet Commission on redesigning child health for the Sustainable Development Goals era. In November 2018 he published The Social Edge. The Power of Sympathy Groups for our Health, Wealth and Sustainable Future.[11]


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 Dr Graca Machel. In May 2016 he received the BMJ Lifetime Achievement Award.[12] [13]

Personal life

Costello and his wife, Helen, have two sons, Harry and Ned, and one daughter, Freya.[14]


  1. ^ Lawn, Joy Elizabeth (2009). 4 million neonatal deaths : an analysis of available cause-of-death data and systematic country estimates with a focus on 'birth asphyxia'. (PhD thesis). University College London. OCLC 829958629. EThOS Free to read
  2. ^ "International MNCA expert named as Director, WHO Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health". World Health Organization. GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: World Health Organization. Jun 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  3. ^ 1999: Improving Newborn Infant Health in Developing Countries. Imperial and World Scientific Press. 1999
  4. ^ Manandhar, Dharma S; Osrin, David; Shrestha, Bhim Prasad; Mesko, Natasha; Morrison, Joanna; Tumbahangphe, Kirti Man; Tamang, Suresh; Thapa, Sushma; Shrestha, Dej; Thapa, Bidur; Shrestha, Jyoti Raj; Wade, Angie; Borghi, Josephine; Standing, Hilary; Manandhar, Madan; de L Costello, Anthony M (2004). "Effect of a participatory intervention with women's groups on birth outcomes in Nepal: cluster-randomised controlled trial". The Lancet. 364 (9438): 970–979. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(04)17021-9. ISSN 0140-6736. PMID 15364188.
  5. ^ Prost, Audrey; Colbourn, Tim; Seward, Nadine; Azad, Kishwar; Coomarasamy, Arri; Copas, Andrew; Houweling, Tanja A J; Fottrell, Edward; Kuddus, Abdul; Lewycka, Sonia; MacArthur, Christine; Manandhar, Dharma; Morrison, Joanna; Mwansambo, Charles; Nair, Nirmala; Nambiar, Bejoy; Osrin, David; Pagel, Christina; Phiri, Tambosi; Pulkki-Brännström, Anni-Maria; Rosato, Mikey; Skordis-Worrall, Jolene; Saville, Naomi; More, Neena Shah; Shrestha, Bhim; Tripathy, Prasanta; Wilson, Amie; Costello, Anthony (2013). "Women's groups practising participatory learning and action to improve maternal and newborn health in low-resource settings: a systematic review and meta-analysis". The Lancet. 381 (9879): 1736–1746. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60685-6. ISSN 0140-6736. PMC 3797417. PMID 23683640.
  6. ^ 2014: WHO recommendation on community mobilization through facilitated participatory learning and action cycles with women's groups for maternal and newborn health. World Health Organization; ISBN 978 92 4 150727 1
  7. ^ Costello, Anthony; Abbas, Mustafa; Allen, Adriana; Ball, Sarah; Bell, Sarah; Bellamy, Richard; Friel, Sharon; Groce, Nora; Johnson, Anne; Kett, Maria; Lee, Maria; Levy, Caren; Maslin, Mark; McCoy, David; McGuire, Bill; Montgomery, Hugh; Napier, David; Pagel, Christina; Patel, Jinesh; de Oliveira, Jose Antonio Puppim; Redclift, Nanneke; Rees, Hannah; Rogger, Daniel; Scott, Joanne; Stephenson, Judith; Twigg, John; Wolff, Jonathan; Patterson, Craig (2009). "Managing the health effects of climate change". The Lancet. 373 (9676): 1693–1733. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60935-1. ISSN 0140-6736. PMID 19447250.
  8. ^ Watts, Nick; Adger, W. Neil; Agnolucci, Paolo; Blackstock, Jason; Byass, Peter; Cai, Wenjia; Chaytor, Sarah; Colbourn, Tim; Collins, Mat; Cooper, Adam; Cox, Peter M.; Depledge, Joanna; Drummond, Paul; Ekins, Paul; Galaz, Victor; Grace, Delia; Graham, Hilary; Grubb, Michael; Haines, Andy; Hamilton, Ian; Hunter, Alasdair; Jiang, Xujia; Li, Moxuan; Kelman, Ilan; Liang, Lu; Lott, Melissa; Lowe, Robert; Luo, Yong; Mace, Georgina; Maslin, Mark; Nilsson, Maria; Oreszczyn, Tadj; Pye, Steve; Quinn, Tara; Svensdotter, My; Venevsky, Sergey; Warner, Koko; Xu, Bing; Yang, Jun; Yin, Yongyuan; Yu, Chaoqing; Zhang, Qiang; Gong, Peng; Montgomery, Hugh; Costello, Anthony (2015). "Health and climate change: policy responses to protect public health". The Lancet. 386 (10006): 1861–1914. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60854-6. PMID 26111439.
  9. ^ "Launch of Network for Improving Quality of Care for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health". Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organisation. The partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. 4 May 2017. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  10. ^ "Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change". Institute of Global Health. Project Summary: University College London. 2017-01-16. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  11. ^ "The Social Edge. The Power of Sympathy Groups for our Health, Wealth and Sustainable Future". 2019-06-24.
  12. ^ Costello, Anthony (2016). "Irreverent, melancholic, dogged". BMJ. 353 (353): i3550. doi:10.1136/bmj.i3550. PMID 27358256.
  13. ^ "Professor Anthony Costello". EAT Forum. EAT. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  14. ^ Honigsbaum, Mark (2009). "Anthony Costello: making climate change part of global health". The Lancet. 373 (9676): 1669. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60929-6. PMID 19447244.
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