Helena Nordenstedt

Principal researcher

About me

I am an associate professor and teacher in global health with broad research interests. My research projects span from learning lessons from infectious disease outbreaks to prevent the next outbreak to non-communicable diseases, especially cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, with a special focus on low-income settings.

- Specialist physician (internal medicine, Danderyd University Hospital 2016)

- Associate professor and teacher in Global health KI (2020)

- Senior advisor and previously Head of research for the Gapminder Foundation. Gapminder was started by the late Professor Hans Rosling, his son Ola Rosling and daughter in law Anna Rönnlund Rosling to "Fight devastating ignorance with a fact-based worldview that everyone can understand". 

- Physician for Médecins sans Frontières in Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Guinea during the big Ebola outbreak in 2014-15. Board member for the Swedish section of MSF 2015-16.

#biggerpicture #systemsthinking #Ebola #NCDs #capacitybuilding

Research description

Research Area

After defending my doctoral thesis in 2007, "Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: Etiological factors", I continued to study epidemiology of esophageal, stomach and liver cancer globally. 

Since 2013 the focus of my research has changed to Global health, still with an epidemiological basis.

Three main projects that I am leading currently, in collaboration with local experts/researchers:

1. Capacity building in the wake of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Doctoral training in HIV/Hepatitis B, maternal and child health, and antimicrobial resistance in collaboration with KI and Liberian researchers who provide PhD supervision for young Liberians at the National Institute of Public Health in Liberia. Funded by a grant from The Swedish Research Council. 4 prospective PhD students are in the process of getting registered as PhD students in this project.

2. Studying the effects of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa (2014-15), and how such an outbreak can best be countered, especially from a behavioral point of view. Funded by a grant from The Swedish Research Council. 2 PhD students have recently finished their PhD training in this project.

3. Epidemiology and prevention of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes in Uganda, with a focus on people living with HIV. Funded by a grant from The Swedish Research Council. 2 PhD students are currently working on this project.

Teaching portfolio

Teaching is the foundation for everything I do. It is even how I learnt global health when switching from gastrointestinal epidemiology to global health. Trying to make the bigger picture of global health easily understandable is my passion, everything from global demography to disease burden. 

Course leadership:

1. In the late 1990s Professor Hans Rosling started a a 5-week elective undergraduate course: "Global health". The course has ca 70 students each semester, who spend 2 weeks of the course in a low- or lower-middle income country like Uganda, Tanzania, Vietnam and Laos. I have been the co-course leader and course leader since 2013.

2. Since 2016 I am also responsible for the 2-week course: "Non-communicable diseases, injuries, natural emergencies and conflicts in a global health perspective" which is part of the Master of Global Health at KI.

3. In 2016 I coordinated a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in Global health together with Hans Rosling and other colleagues. We had more than 20,000 participants from all over the world registering for this course on the EdX platform.


Medical degree and PhD at the Karolinska Institutet in 2007. My doctoral thesis was on the etiology of gastroesophageal reflux disease with Professor Jesper Lagergren as main supervisor, using Swedish and Nordic registers to carry out epidemiological research using different methodologies, including twin studies. After medical internship to become a licensed physician (AT) I spent half a year in 2009-2010 at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA as a postdoc under the supervision of Professor Hashem El-Serag. Since 2016 I am a specialist physician in internal medicine, at Danderyd University Hospital.

Academic honours, awards and prizes

SIGHT Fellowship 2017-2019 - Global Health Leadership Program

One out of 8 fellows in the first SIGHT Fellowship cohort.