Last Updated

07 Feb 2020

A conversation with Prof Clara Menéndez

Prof Clara Menéndez is the Director of the Maternal, Child and Reproductive Health Initiative and Programme at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal). She has devoted most of her career to describing key determinants of maternal newborn and reproductive health problems and to design and test new interventions. We asked her some questions about her research interests and the projects she is involved with nowadays.


Q: Could you tell us a little bit about you and your research interests?

I am a clinical epidemiologist focused on research on maternal and child health problems in low-income countries. 

My main research is on the evaluation of malaria and anaemia prevention strategies in pregnant women and children, causes of death in these population groups and evaluation of tools to determine the causes of death.


Q: Why do you think pregnant women could be an important group to target with chemoprevention strategies?

Because of their higher susceptibility to malaria infection and severity of the disease.


Q: Which are the main benefits of this strategy?

Effective Prevention of malaria in pregnant women is associated with a reduced frequency of infection, anaemia, low birth weight and prematurity and, importantly, of neonatal mortality.


Q: In your opinion, which are the main challenges when trying to deploy this strategy?

There are several, but most important are the limited access of pregnant women to health facilities, and the stock-outs of the drug.


Q: IPTp was first recommended in 1998, becoming the first intermittent chemoprevention strategy to be endorsed by WHO. More than 20 years later, where are we now?  

In a situation where less than 30% of the pregnant women receive the 3 recommended administrations during pregnancy and where the most vulnerable women to the infection, HIV-infected women, do not receive at all.  


Q: You are leading a project evaluating the impact of azithromycin plus IPTi in Sierra Leone. Could you talk a little bit about it?

It is a large clinical trial to assess the impact on child mortality of azithromycin plus IPTi alongside EPI immunisations.


Q: In your opinion, what next steps should the malaria community take?

  • To improve the delivery of and access to the interventions that are cost-effective;
  • To include effective malaria and anaemia prevention in those groups that are more susceptible and assess the most effective and safe interventions in them;
  • To produce and assess more drugs for malaria  prevention.


Clara Menendez, a medical graduate from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, is a registered specialist in Family Medicine and in Community Health and Preventive Medicine. Shel holds a PhD from the University of Barcelona and a DTM&H following studies at the LSHTM. She has worked in India, Latin America and PNG. However, there has been a strong focus in sub-Saharan Africa, working in The Gambia, Tanzania and Mozambique. She was a key member of the founding team of the Manhica Health Research Center in Mozambique. Know more about her research in MESA Track