Obituary: Kris Heggenhougen

Our wonderful colleague and great friend Kris Heggenhougen died in the USA of COVID-19 respiratory distress in August 2020 aged 80 years as he was recovering from surgery. He had also been suffering from Parkinson’s disease. 

Kris always had a warm smile and a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. He was passionate about human rights, equality and the eradication of poverty. He had a quick ability with Spanish, Kiswahili and other languages, and a way of completely immersing himself in people’s lives. 

Kris joined the Evaluation and Planning Centre (EPC) at LSHTM as a medical anthropologist in 1980. I had established the EPC as a multidisciplinary team of epidemiologists, health economists and social scientists, with the aim of supporting primary health care policies and planning in low- and middle-income countries following the Alma Ata WHO/UNICEF conference in 1978. Other members who also joined at that time were Anne Mills, Gill Walt and Godfrey Walker, and George Cumper and Carol MacCormack, now both deceased.

Kris was born in Norway and grew up and went to university in New England, USA. Early in his career, he worked closely with hospitalised children having cardiac surgery and later undertook his PhD anthropology fieldwork with health workers in Guatemala, Central America. At the EPC he and I worked together on a large scale evaluation of community health workers in Tanzania and he later worked as an academic in development studies at the Christian Michelsen Institute in Bergen, Norway, and at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, USA. 

He was the kindest of men and a fine human being. He was always deeply interested in the students.

May he rest in peace.

Written by J Patrick Vaughan, CBE, Emeritus Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, LSHTM.

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