Dr Eleanor Hukin

London School of Economics
Department of Social Policy
LSE Health and Social Care
Houghton Street
  Email: e.f.hukin@lse.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)20 7955 6707

LSE Experts



Selected presentations
I am a Research Officer at LSE Health, at the London School of Economics, University of London.  My research focuses on reproductive health and maternal health in developing countries, with a focus on two regions, South East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. I am interested in bringing together approaches from anthropology and demography, and have collected and analysed both qualitative and quantitative data. I have expertise in contraception and abortion across cultures, reproductive health programmes, mixed methods research, the fertility transition and medical anthropology.

I completed my ESRC-funded PhD in Demography at LSE, entitled "Contraception in Cambodia: Explaining Unmet Need", in April 2013. I analysed Cambodian Demographic and Health Surveys (2005-2010) and conducted an ethnography of women’s fertility intentions and unmet need for contraception. The study focused on how social and cultural context affects health-seeking and reproductive behaviour. I examined the reasons for unmet need for contraception; explanations revolved around side effects, trust in the health system, and abortion.

In my current role at LSE I work on two international research projects and collaborate with international NGOs. I conduct quantitative and qualitative data collection and analyses on an ESRC/DFID funded research project entitled "Pregnancy termination trajectories in Zambia: the socio-economic costs". I provide technical, methodological and management support and contribute expertise in abortion, family planning and reproductive decision-making. I am also involved in a WHO-funded research project that systematically reviews the impact of interventions which aim to accommodate culture to increase utilization of maternal health services. Whilst at the LSE I have also taught the course Population, Economy and Society.










Selected presentations

    Hukin. E. (2013) ‘The Doctor’s Way’: Traditional Contraception and Modernity. In: XXVII IUSSP International Population Conference, 26-31 August 2013: Busan, Korea.

Coast, E. & Hukin, E. (2013) ‘Unwanted’ Fertility in Zambia. Invited presentation at IPPF (International Planned Parenthood Federation) Seminar Series, 22 May 2013, London.

Hukin, E. (2012) ‘The Doctor’s Way’: Traditional Contraception and Modernity in Cambodia. In: University of Oxford Seminar Series for the Fertility and Reproductive Studies Group, 12 November 2012: Oxford.

Hukin, E. (2012) Contraceptive Choice, Abortion and Socioeconomic Status. In: Asian Population Association Conference, 26-29 August 2012: Bangkok, Thailand.

Hukin, E. (2008) Unmet Need for Contraception in Cambodia: Perceptions of Health, Illness and the Body. In: British Society for Population Studies Postgraduate Conference, 25-27 June 2008: University Of Manchester.



    Hukin, E. (under review) Cambodia’s Fertility Transition: the Dynamics of Contemporary Childbearing, Population and Development Review.

Parmer, D., Leone, T., Coast, E. & Hukin, E. (in preparation) The Cost of Post-Abortion Care versus Safe Abortions for the Zambian Public Health System, to submit to American Journal of Public Health.

Hukin, E. (in preparation) ‘The Doctor’s Way’: Traditional Contraception and Modernity in Cambodia, to submit to Demographic Research.

Sikateyo, B., Coast, E., Hukin, E. & Murray, S. (in preparation) Ethics of Studying Unwanted Fertility in Zambia, to submit to Social Science and Medicine.

Hukin, E. (in preparation) Fear of Side-effects and the Unmet Need for Contraception in Cambodia, to submit to International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

Hukin, E. (in preparation) Postponement of First Births: Re-evaluating Reproductive Categories, to submit to Population Space and Place.

Hukin, E. (in preparation) The Practicality of Daughters and the Prestige of Sons, to submit to Population Studies.




Contraception in Cambodia: Explaining Unmet Need

    My PhD in Demography was awarded in April 2013. I studied in the Department of Social Policy and was supervised by Dr Ernestina Coast, Dr Rebecca Sear and Prof David Lewis.
    My thesis aims to explain why there is a high level of unmet need for contraception in Cambodia - a country where effective methods of birth control are cheaply available and morally acceptable. The research design takes a mixed methods approach, initially using data from the Cambodian Demographic and Health Surveys of 2000 and 2005 to assess trends in contraceptive use. Multivariate logistic regression is used to analyse factors associated with, firstly, unmet need, and secondly, use of traditional contraceptive methods. The likelihood of having an unmet need for contraception increased as education and wealth levels decreased; urban or rural residence had no significant effect. However, the likelihood of using traditional methods, rather than modern methods, increased as education and wealth increased. Taking these findings and the questions they raise as a departure point, 21 months of ethnographic fieldwork was conducted in one urban and one rural site in Northwest Cambodia between 2008 and 2010.

The study looks at women’s and men’s reproductive decision making with a focus on their experiences of and meanings given to contraception, situating these understandings within the broader social context. Fear of side effects, stemming from both contraceptive experiences and notions of health and the body, was found to be the greatest obstacle to use of modern contraceptives. This related more broadly to the pluralistic medical systems operating simultaneously and the varying levels of medicalization and trust in both biomedicine and the Cambodian health system. Behaviour that seemed counter-intuitive at the outset - not wanting to become pregnant but not using contraception, and wealthy educated women choosing traditional over modern methods – becomes understandable in light of the context and meanings highlighted by the ethnographic data. This thesis provides a unique empirical study which contributes to the emerging field of anthropological demography. By bringing approaches and methods from medical anthropology to the typically demographic phenomenon of unmet need, the study provides a new insight for social policies regarding reproductive health as well as contributing to the body of ethnographic literature on Cambodia.



  Related links
LSE Africa blog post
Demotrends blog post

1. Pregnancy termination trajectories in Zambia: the socio-economic costs

    Unsafe abortion is a significant, but preventable, cause of maternal mortality and morbidity and is both a cause and a consequence of poverty.  Zambia’s maternal mortality ratio is 591 deaths per 100,000 live births, of which a significant proportion are likely to be due to unsafe abortion, although there are no nationally representative data available.  Despite abortion being legal in Zambia, unsafe abortion remains persistently high. This research seeks to establish how investment in abortion services impacts on the socio-economic conditions of women and their households, and the implications for policy-making and service provision in Zambia. We collect both quantitative and qualitative data from women who have undergone either a safe abortion or post-abortion care at University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia.
    Research questions
  • What are the indirect and direct socio-economic costs of safe abortion compared to hospital-based PAC following an unsafe abortion for women and their households?
  • What role does poverty play in termination of pregnancy trajectories?
  • What are the social benefits and costs of using formal safe abortion services compared to informal unsafe abortion methods? 
  • Why is the investment in safe abortion services in Zambia not fully used by women seeking to terminate a pregnancy? 

Research team
P.I. Dr Ernestina Coast (LSE)
Dr Eleanor Hukin
Dr Bellington Vwalika
Dr Susan Murray (Kings College London)


Dr Tiziana Leone (LSE)
Dr Divya Parmar (LSE)
Dr Bornwell Sikateyo


  Related links
World Health Organization

2. WHO Systematic Mapping of Maternal Health Interventions Incorporating Culture

    Addressing socio-cultural dimensions of maternity care service use has been recognized as an important step in accelerating the achievement of MDG 5. However, there are no systematic mappings or reviews of the ways in which culture has been incorporated into interventions for maternal health. This systematic mapping is a first step towards understanding what interventions have been implemented to increase women’s use of maternity services that primarily and explicitly attempt to accommodate or address a cultural group’s shared norms, values and/or beliefs; behavioural customs; and/or spoken language/s.

Research question
What interventions have been implemented to address cultural factors that affect women’s use of maternity care services?

    Research team
P.I. Dr Ernestina Coast (LSE)
Eleri Jones (LSE)

Dr Eleanor Hukin
Stephanie Kumpunen (LSE)