Sapna Desai is an associate based in New Delhi, where she conducts research on women’s health and well-being in India, with a focus on community-based interventions, health systems, and sexual and reproductive health. Trained in epidemiology and health systems research, she offers the unique combination of research expertise and in-depth previous experience implementing grassroots programs with women’s groups and community health workers in India.
Dr. Desai currently works on: a global evidence consortium to strengthen the evidence base on women’s groups co-led by the Population Council and American Institutes of Research; a theory-based examination of how women’s groups lead to improved health outcomes in India; and health systems research focussed on women’s health and gynecological morbidity in India. She collaborates in multi-disciplinary teams in each of her projects and leads partnerships with academic, government and civil society partners.
Prior to joining the Population Council, Dr. Desai spent ten years implementing, scaling-up and researching programs with women’s groups and community health workers in several states of India with the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a union which has organized over 1.5 million women in India through labor, microfinance, livelihoods, health, insurance and skills-based groups. She was PI of a cluster randomized trial and mixed-methods process evaluation on the impact of group-based health education on women’s health, including in-depth qualitative research on hysterectomy, and led several implementation research studies with partners at SEWA. She also led the national health team that implemented community health and health insurance programs, integrated with microfinance and livelihoods in both rural and urban areas. She currently serves as an External Project Advisor to 3ie on mixed methods impact and process evaluations. She has been affiliated with the global journal Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters for ten years, as both an advisory board member and associate editor.
She holds a PhD in epidemiology and population health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, an MS in population and international health from Harvard University and AB in international relations from Brown University.