Jennifer Toller Erausquin, PhD, MPH
Education and Training
Duke Global Health Institute
University of California, Los Angeles
Master of Public Health
University of California, Los Angeles
Bachelor of Arts
University of Michigan
I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and my MPH and PhD from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Following my undergraduate study, I worked as a paramedic and volunteered as a bilingual patient educator at a free family health clinic in Detroit, Michigan. As I became involved with patients and their needs, I learned to navigate the safety net system of healthcare for the poor in southeastern Michigan. My experiences underscored the interconnectedness of health and social disparities, particularly relating to socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, and acculturation. I pursued graduate study in public health to gain skills and experience in addressing health from a population perspective. As a graduate student I was a predoctoral fellow of the California Center for Population Research and the UCLA AIDS Research Training Program, receiving training in demography and epidemiology. I went on to complete a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Duke Global Health Institute, followed by an appointment in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health.
I am a public health behavioral researcher specializing in women’s and children’s health. My research agenda centers on social and contextual determinants of health disparities, and the design and evaluation of structural interventions to eliminate health disparities. Structural interventions are “upstream” public health interventions that change policies, practices, or programs in order to change the context that shapes individual and population health. Using the structural perspective, my research has examined how families, worksites, schools, and characteristics of the community as a whole influence multiple dimensions of women’s and children’s health, and contribute to or mitigate racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in health. My substantive areas of interest are sexual and reproductive health, health risk behaviors among youth, and Latino/a family health.
Past and Current Studies
Much of my work to date has applied tools from epidemiology and demography to examine the multiple layers of influence on health risk behaviors. In research on women in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, I used multilevel models to show that in addition to individual-level characteristics such as education and relationship status, key measures of community-level socioeconomic status and opportunity are significantly associated with HIV knowledge and behaviors. The results demonstrated the critical role of education and poverty, even beyond the individual, suggesting that interventions to improve access to education and employment for the population as a whole may be a component of effective HIV prevention programs in these settings. As new data have recently become available, this line of research is ongoing.
I also continue to use multilevel, mixed, and fixed-effects models for rigorous outcome evaluation of community-led and community-engaged structural interventions. One example of this is my work with Project Parivartan (PI: Kim Blankenship, American University), a project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to evaluate the effectiveness of a community-led structural intervention for HIV prevention in India. The intervention uses community mobilization and policy changes to prevent HIV among female sex workers. I have led efforts examining police-sex worker interactions over time, assessing which changes could be attributed to the structural intervention. My research with Project Parivartan has been published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health and the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
My goals for my future research on social determinants of health and structural interventions to address health disparities are to:
1. Advance understanding of family structure and neighborhood dynamics and their associations with child health, using multilevel models and other quantitative techniques.
2. Expand use of geographic data to inform how communities affect individual and population health.
3. Continue to improve upon methods for developing and evaluating complex community-level and structural interventions. This involves advancing understanding about the mechanisms by which families, schools, and neighborhoods affect health.
Please note: some items require a free Microsoft Office Viewer. Please select the appropriate viewer and download it from the Microsoft web site. Each Office file type link is labelled as such.