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José Villar

José Villar


I qualified in medicine and specialised in Obstetrics, Gynecology and Perinatology. I obtained a Master of Sciences degree in Nutrition at WHO’s research unit in Guatemala, and a Masters Degree in Public Health from Harvard University.  I completed my Post-doctoral Fellowship at the Johns Hopkins University.
Subsequently, I was Assistant and Associate Professor of Public Health and Obstetrics & Gynecology at Johns Hopkins University, where students selected me for the 1983 Excellence in Teaching “Golden Apple Award”.
I was Professor of Nutrition and Director of the Division of Nutrition and Health at the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP), and of WHO in Guatemala in 1985 and 1986.  In 1987 I was appointed “Expert” in Obstetrics at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Bethesda, and visiting Lecturer at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Until 2006, I was the WHO Co-ordinator of Maternal and Perinatal Health at WHO’s HQ in Geneva. I was also the Director of the International Postgraduate Course on Reproductive Biology and Sexual Health at the University of Geneva between 2002 and 2006.
In 1997, I co-founded the WHO Reproductive Health Library – the first WHO electronic review journal – based on Cochrane Systematic Reviews, which has been published annually ever since, and I was its co-editor until 2006.
I have published over 230 original scientific publications and book chapters. My paper in The Lancet in 2001, reporting a randomized trial that evaluated a new model of antenatal care was cited in the top 10 articles on early childhood development worldwide.
With colleagues, we were the first to identify and documented the effectiveness of calcium supplementation to prevent hypertensive diseases of pregnancy and preterm birth.  I led, for the WHO the largest randomized controlled trial on the subject, published in 2006.  In June 2013, The Lancet identified calcium supplementation to mothers as one of “ten proven nutrition-specific interventions” and recommended scaling it up to cover 90% of the pregnant population at risk.

See WHO recommendations


José Villar


Professor of Perinatal Medicine & Co-Director of the Oxford Maternal and Perinatal Health Institute (OMPHI).

I joined the University of Oxford in 2006. I am Professor of Perinatal Medicine at the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, and Co-director of the Oxford Maternal and Perinatal Health Institute at Green Templeton College, University of Oxford.
I am the Principal Investigator of "INTERGROWTH-21”, a large, multinational, prospective project exploring several aspects of normal and impaired fetal growth from conception to 2 years of age, plus the phenotypes of the preterm birth and impaired fetal growth syndromes, including their etiology and long-term consequences. The Project has produced international standards for fetal growth, newborn size at birth, and postnatal growth of preterm infants.

sources of funding

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation