gHealth Research Group

Group Overview

The gHealth Research group is centred in the UCD Conway Institute. Our multi-disciplinary team of researchers is primarily focused on global health (gHealth) issues in low and middle income countries where we are developing new innovative strategies for diagnosis, treatment and management of disease.

To date these global health strategies include biomarker & therapeutic research, mHealth and health care system reform. Capacity building and implementation science are key objectives of the gHealth Research group at UCD. These are central features to achieving a successful and long lasting global health impact and we are currently mediating this through our strong collaborations between Malawi, Uganda, UK, Norway, and the US.

A brief summary of the group is presented below.

Group Information

Location: UCD Conway Institute
Research Director: Dr Chris Watson
Clinical Director: Dr Joe Gallagher
Group Website: ghealthresear


Project Manager:

Dr Carolanne Doherty

Dr. Carolanne Doherty is joining gHealth Research as project manager. gHealth Research are working to improve global health through innovative strategies for diagnosis, treatment and management of diseases primarily in low and middle income countries. These global health projects include biomarker and therapeutic research and mHealth and healthcare system research. She has recently completed a PhD in Systems Biology researching druggable targets in cancer signalling.

The gHealth research group focuses on a number of major themes.  Details of some current and planned projects are outlined below:


The group have a number of projects ongoing in this area which utilise the widespread mobile phone network and new sensor technologies to manage acute and chronic illness in low and middle income countries (LMIC).

  • MTIMA (Managing Type 2 Diabetes in Malawi, Africa)

This is a collaboration between UCD, Imperial College London, Mzuzu University and other governmental and non governmental organisations in Malawi which will improve management of type 2 diabetes in Malawi using eHealth and point of care biomarker approaches to enable community based care for type 2 diabetes. 

  • Supporting LIFE (Low cost Interventions For hEalth)

This is a €3.7m FP7 funded project of which Joe Gallagher is co-PI.  It is developing and trialling the use of an eHealth solution for the diagnosis and management of acute illness in children under 5 in Malawi

  • VADIS 1 (Vital Signs to Aid Diagnosis in Serious illness)

This will develop a database of the symptoms, physical symptoms and vital signs of approximately 25,000 acutely ill children in Malawi. Using this data a decision support system for identification of serious illness in children will be developed for deployment on mobile phone platforms.

  • VADIS 2

This will be a RCT of the decision support system developed from VADIS 1 compared to the current WHO Integrated Management of Childhood Illness guidelines


The potential for biomarkers to be used as point of care diagnostics in LMIC will enable widespread community dissemination of diagnostics without the need for expensive and highly technical imaging modalities which may be difficult to deploy in countries with few doctors and nurses.

This is an observational project and will involve the recruitment of type 2 diabetic patients from Mzuzu Central Hospital, and will be coordinated by our Malawi based NGO collaborators Luke International Norway. The study includes the assessment of the cardiac stress hormone NTproBNP (NTproBNP point of care in Malawi), glycosylated haemoglobin, fasting glucose and lipid profile using point of care devices, ECG, blood pressure, history, and clinical characteristics. Computerised records will be developed and will be linked up with cloud services – we will be able to access data remotely, and watch it being entered in real time.

  • BICA  (BIomarkers of Cardiomyopathy in Africa)

Accessing echocardiography is a major issue in low and middle income countries.  Developing novel biomarkers to aid early identification of cardiomyopathy is a key step forward identified by the European Heart Failure Association.  These can then be deployed using point of care platforms.

  • EMF

Endomyocardial Fibrosis is a cause of heart failure of unknown aetiology confined to tropical areas and affecting over 10 million people.  It is a poorly researched condition and the disease mechanisms remain undefined.  By investigating the pathophysiology of EMF the group aims to elucidate the possible cause of EMF and identify novel therapeutic targets.

Primary Healthcare

Given that the majority of people in LMIC live in rural areas one of our key objectives is to ensure that care is accessible in the community where possible.  Therefore our projects focus on ensuring that high quality care can be provided in primary care facilities for common conditions and effective referral pathways are available to those in need of specialist care.

Dr. Chris Watson joined UCD as a Newman Scholar in 2006 and is a co-founder and co-Director of the UCD gHealth Research Group which is a multidisciplinary group of researchers seeking innovative methods of managing illness globally, particularly in low and middle income countries using emerging strategies of biomarker science, eHealth, mHealth, and health care system reform. Currently the gHealth Research group is working in Malawi, Uganda, UK and the US.

Dr. Watson is also the Principal Investigator of the Experimental & Clinical Cardiology Group based in the Conway Institute, UCD. The focus of this research group includes in vitro and in vivo models of hypertensive heart disease and diabetes to investigate the impact of novel anti-inflammatory and epigenetic modifying therapies targeting diseases such as cardiac fibrosis and hypertrophy. These activities also include a 5 year HRB research program to identify novel protein and miRNA biomarkers that could be used to risk stratify diabetic patients and predict future development of cardiovascular disease complications.

Dr. Watson is also a co-Principal Investigator for the Chronic Cardiovascular Disease Management group based in St. Vincents University Hospital, which recently published the STOP-HF trial (JAMA 2013) highlighting the utility of natriuretic peptides to identify patients as a risk stratifying tool for cardiovascular disease complications. This study has now expanded to focus on a Diabetic population within the community (Midland Project). In addition, Dr. Watson is the Translational Research coordinator for the Heartbeat Trust.

Dr Watson is a steering committee member for the Irish Heart Foundation developed National Cardiovascular and Stroke Research Network. He is also actively involved in 3 on-going FP7 projects, one of which he is a co-Principlal Investigator (FIBROTARGETS, HOMAGE, MEDIA). Dr Watson is involved in a number of innovation and commercialisation activities funded by Enterprise Ireland around novel diagnostic biomarkers for disease and novel therapeutic strategies.

From an educational perspective, Dr Watson is currently undertaking a higher diploma in University Teaching & Learning at UCD, and has co-developed and is jointly running the innovative UCD LabView initiative.

Dr Joe Gallagher is a co-founder and clinical director for the gHealth Research Group in UCD.  He is formerly co-director of the Health Information Systems Research Centre in University College Cork.  He is co-Principal Investigator on the Supporting LIFE project which is studying the use of eHealth approaches for the management of acute illness in young children in Malawi.   

He is a practicing general practitioner and also works with the Chronic Cardiovascular Disease Management Group in St Vincents University Hospital.  He is a member of the Heart Failure Committee of the Irish Heart Foundation and the Patient Care Committee of the European Heart Failure Association.  He previously worked in Malawi and is involved in a number of initiatives there including the development of the first eHealth Research Unit in Malawi in Mzuzu University.

Listen to Dr Gallagher describe the Community Health Worker Model here:


Dr. Chris Watson, Research Director, Research Profile

Dr. Joe Gallagher, Clinical Director

Dr. John O’Donoghue, e-Health Principal Investigator

Dr. Mark Ledwidge, Project co-ordinator and co-Investigator

Dr. Gordon Cooke, Project co-ordinator and co-Investigator

Dr. Nadezhda Glezeva, Post-doctoral Researcher

Dr. Margaret Bermingham, Clinical Pharmacist

Dr. Jenny Watson, Senior Post-doctoral Researcher

Ms. Colette Morrow, Clinical Research Nurse

Ms. Deirdre Ryan, Research Officer & Health Promotion Officer

Ms. Siobhan O’Connor, Research Associate, HIRSC

Ms. Sharon Morrow, Healthcare System Reform and Medical Ethics

Academic Collaborators

Global eHealth Unit, Imperial College London

The Global eHealth Unit is at the forefront of the introduction and implementation of IT innovation into health care systems.

  • Dr. John O’Donoghue, Deputy Director

Mzuzu University, Malawi

Mzuzu University is one of the principal universities of Malawi. It was founded in 1997 and accepted its first students in 1999.

  • Dr. Robert Ridley, Vice Chancellor
  • Dr. Loveness Kaunda, Pro Vice Chancellor
  • Dr. Mike Zulu, Dean of Health Sciences
  • Dr. John Chipolombwe, Chief Medical Officer, Mzuzu Central Hospital

Makerere University, Uganda

Makerere University is one of the oldest and most prestigious Universities in Africa.

  • Dr. Charles Mondo, Cardiology Division, College of Health Sciences
  • Dr. Mathias Behangana, Dept. of Environmental Management

Queens University Belfast

QUB is an international centre of research and education rooted at the heart of Northern Ireland. Founded as Queen’s College in 1845, it became a university in its own right in 1908.

  • Dr. Mei Zhou, School of Pharmacy
  • Dr. David Orr, School of Pharmacy

Cleveland Clinic, Ohio

The Cleveland Clinic is a multispecialty academic medical center located in Cleveland, Ohio, United States.

  • Dr. Pat Collier, Cardiac Imaging Section
  • Dr. Dermot Phelan, Cardiac Imaging Section
  • Dr. Deborah Koon, Cardiac Imaging Section

Health Information Systems Research Centre, University College Cork

The Health Information Systems Research Centre (HISRC) is an eHealth research centre, at University College Cork (UCC), building on the growing synergy between information and communication technologies (ICT) and healthcare.

  • Dr. John O’Donoghue, Director

Non Governmental Collaborators

Ungweru, Malawi

Ungweru is a grassroots non-governmental organization that has been registered in Malawi since 2010. Their vision is to improve the quality of life for vulnerable groups in northern Malawi.

  • Dr. John Ryan
  • Mr. Macdonald Gweulangughi Mughogho
  • Mr. Dominic Nyirongo

Luke International Norway

LIN  is a non profit organisation which primarily works internationally, attaching importance to cooperating with authorities, universities and other educational institutions, churches, and private and public organisations in the countries/ areas in which work.

  • Dr. Joseph Wu
  • Ms. Jenny Hsieh

Policy Makers

Ministry of Health Malawi

The Ministry of Health headquarters is at Capital Hill in Lilongwe. It has major hospitals (for referral) in all the three regions of the country. The Ministry seeks to achieve health for all Malawians by delivering health services and disseminating health information to the general public.

  • Dr. Beatrice Mwagomba, Head of Non-communicable Diseases
  • Dr. Chris Moyo, Head of ICT and eHealth

Industry Collaborators

Roche Diagnostics

Roche Diagnostics is a diagnostic division of Hoffmann-La Roche which manufactures equipment and reagents for research and medical diagnostic applications.

Aspiration for non-communicable disease management in Malawi (March 2014):

ghealthresearch VIDEO Malawi 2014


How do we get healthcare to where it is needed:

Community Health Worker model AND Dr Joe Gallagher TEDx Talk