Dr. Alexandra Alvergne

Alex Alvergne is Associate Professor in Biocultural Anthropology and a Fellow of Harris Manchester College. She is an evolutionary ecologist by training and her research focuses on understanding diversity and change in reproductive and health decision-making. She is affiliated with the medical anthropology programme and teaches courses in Quantitative Methods, Anthropology of Diseases and Evolution in Health and Medicine.

Research Interests

She has conducted field work in Sub-Saharan Africa and India.

Evolution, demography and medicine. Alex's research aims to investigate the role of biological and cultural evolutionary processes for understanding behavioral diversity and change. She aims to develop an integrative approach, combining data and methodolgies of both biological and cultural anthropology.

Current Projects

Contraceptive Discontinuation

Most research on the adoption of contraception in sub-Saharan countries focuses on why modern contraception is not adopted more widely. However, previous research suggests that attention should be directed to individuals who do adopt modern contraception but then later decide to switch methods or abandon contraception altogether. Indeed, a significant number of women experience side effects that are not compatible with their everyday life. Alex is investigating the magnitude of contraceptive discontinuation and the reasons underlying it, using both analyses of demographic and health surveys and qualitative data. The research focuses on the Ethiopian context in collaboration with Professor E. Gurmu (University of Addis Ababa).

Vaccinating Decision- Making

While vaccination is usually considered to be one of the greatest successes of Western medicine, it is common to see the resurgence of diseases as a result of "vaccines scares". So far, such scares or oscillation in vaccinating decision-making are understood as a result of a conflict between individual and group optimal interests. In collaboration with modelers from the University of Lille (Dr. S. Billiard, M. Voinson), Alex is investigating the extent to which the assumption of rationality—here the idea that idnidvuals act in their own interest—is mandatory for oscillations in vaccination coverage to occur. The project brings together cultural, psychological and epidemiological models for describing the dynamic of vaccinating decision-making.

Adoption of Innovations in Small-Scale Societies

Development initiatives do not always succeed in the implemention of new programmes aimed at improving health services (for example, sanitation) or agricultural practices. In collaboration with Dr. S. Lamba, a biologist from the University of Exeter, Alex is investigating the relevance of evolutionary theoretical frameworks for understanding whether such innovations are likely to spread in small-scale populations currently without adequate services. She uses a variety of data to better understand how people respond to the introduction of new cultural traits in rural India. While public health literature and newspapers alike usually consider education and "changing culture" to be key to promoting the spread of health services, practical concerns, such as lack of access to piped water, are generally overlooked. This research is funded by the British Academy.

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