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Kat Tumlinson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Maternal and Child Health


Katherine Tumlinson wants to put effective contraceptive methods in the hands of women with a demonstrated desire to delay or avoid pregnancy. Her work investigates barriers that women encounter when they arrive at a healthcare facility and she works primarily in low and middle-income countries.

Dr. Tumlinson is trained as an epidemiologist and demographer, with a portfolio of work at the intersection of population and global reproductive health. Dr. Tumlinson has served as principal investigator on research studies conducted in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, undertaking cross-sectional and longitudinal primary data collection activities at both the household level and within healthcare facilities. Professionally, she has worked as a family planning service provider and reproductive health educator and advocate, and these roles have provided critical context for the development of a highly relevant and applied research agenda.
The primary focus of Dr. Tumlinson's work is to gain a better understanding of the relationship between family planning service quality and contraceptive use among women in low-income countries. She has designed or taken the lead in multiple studies intended to investigate provider behavior and practices. Dr. Tumlinson's research has revealed low validity in standard instruments used to measure quality in large-scale demographic surveys, suggesting quality of family planning service delivery is frequently underestimated with traditional measures and definitions. A corresponding mixed-method study also discovered multiple healthcare provider behaviors that may restrict family planning access yet fall outside traditional frameworks and are unlikely to be measured by standard tools, including provider absenteeism, verbal abuse, and solicitation of informal fees. These finding have major implications for future service delivery assessments and quality improvement efforts in developing countries.

Dr. Tumlinson's current research portfolio, funded by an NIH career development grant, uses large-scale demographic data from Kenya to estimate the association between quality of care and contraceptive continuation and to assess the reliability of the retrospective reproductive calendar. Dr. Tumlinson is also using longitudinal data from Western Kenya to examine the validity of reproductive calendar data. Additionally, Dr. Tumlinson is collecting extensive qualitative primary data to better understand the motivations of healthcare providers in low-income settings in order to develop appropriate, feasible, and sustainable interventions to increase the quality of service delivery and improve public health outcomes.

Across these activities, Dr. Tumlinson employs highly complex quantitative methodologies, integrated qualitative techniques, and a cross-disciplinary approach. Throughout all stages of her work, Dr. Tumlinson regularly engages with relevant key stakeholders to ensure her research agenda is informed by in-country priorities and to ensure her results find audience with in-country reproductive health program managers and policy makers.

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Last Updated: 2019-09-13