Dr. Watkins studies health systems in low- and middle-income countries, focusing particularly on non-communicable conditions like cardiovascular disease. His research covers three broad themes: estimating disease burden, identifying gaps in healthcare delivery and their solutions, and analyzing health policies.

Current projects:

AHA Strategically Focused Children’s Research Network

Dr. Watkins collaborates with three other principal investigators on a four-year research consortium that supports basic, clinical, and population health projects on rheumatic heart disease, the most common cardiovascular disease in children and young adults worldwide. Dr. Watkins’ project focuses on strengthening and scaling up health services for rheumatic heart disease prevention and care in Uganda. Specific aims include assessing current health system shortfalls, quantifying the economic consequences of the disease, and developing and applying a policy modeling tool that can assess the costs and benefits of various health interventions. This project is sponsored by the American Heart Association.

Disease Control Priorities Network

Led by principal investigator Dean Jamison, this seven-year initiative supports the use of economic evaluation for setting health priorities in low- and middle-income countries. Dr. Watkins is the project lead on several studies that synthesize epidemiological, demographic, and economic datasets to provide cross-cutting policy recommendations on priorities for universal health coverage in general and for cardiovascular disease and cancer in particular. Beginning in 2018, the project will collaborate with ministries of health in several low- and middle-income countries. The Disease Control Priorities Network is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Rheumatic Heart Disease Action

RHD Action is a coalition of academic, civil society, and philanthropic organizations that seek to reduce and eventually eliminate rheumatic heart disease around the world, in part by providing scientific and technical support to programs in countries where the disease is endemic. Dr. Watkins leads a scientific working group on the burden of rheumatic heart disease and collaborates on the development of tools for use by local disease control programs. RHD Action is funded by the Medtronic Foundation.

Other interests

In addition to the major projects above, Dr. Watkins is a collaborator on projects that study the integration of HIV/AIDS and non-communicable disease care in African countries and policy solutions to non-communicable disease risk factors in adolescents. He also holds a research appointment at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, where he maintains active research collaborations and supervises and mentors graduate students.