Latinx Health Research Group

Brown University School of Public Health has a budding body of research focused on improving Hispanic/Latinx health related to both chronic and infectious diseases. Our faculty research has focused on improving health and wellness outcomes related to diet and physical activity, healthy aging, and reducing HIV infections among Hispanic/Latinx populations. The following faculty members have active research grants related to improving Hispanic health.

Jasjit S. Ahluwalia, MD, MPH, MS

Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Professor of Medicine

Dr. Ahluwalia’s primary research has focused on nicotine addiction and smoking cessation in African-American smokers. His work has extended to harm reduction with the use of e-cigarettes in Latinx and African American combustible tobacco users. He also has a broad interest in minority health, health disparities, and the social determinants of health.

Research Profile

Tanya J. Benitez, PhD, MSW

Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences

Dr. Benitez’s research focuses on Latina women’s health and disease risk reduction behavior, especially in the realm of physical activity promotion.

Research Profile

Katie B. Biello, PhD

Associate Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Associate Professor of Epidemiology

Dr. Biello’s research interests include identifying and understanding the underlying risk factors for social inequities in HIV/STIs and developing behavioral interventions to reduce risk among racial, sexual and gender minorities and those in resource limited settings, both domestically and globally.

Research Profile

Suzanne M. Colby, PhD

Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences

Dr. Colby has expertise in developing and testing brief motivational interventions (MIs) for alcohol and tobacco use. Over the past 15 years, she has collaborated with Dr. Christina S. Lee (lead investigator) on a line of research investigating alcohol-related health disparities among Latinx heavy drinkers.  The initial work involved formative research exploring risk and protective factors related to alcohol use among Latinx drinkers such as minority stress (e.g., due to acculturation stress, discrimination). The next phase was a pilot randomized controlled trial that supported the feasibility and acceptability of a culturally-adapted motivational intervention (CAMI) for Latinx drinkers. This was followed by a fully powered RCT, which demonstrated the benefits of CAMI over standard MI for Latinx drinkers who either were less acculturated or experienced higher levels of discrimination at baseline. We are also conducting a study (with Dr. Molly Magill) of the therapeutic mechanisms that account for the differential benefits of CAMI in Latinx drinkers.  

Research Profile

Akilah Dulin, PhD

Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences

Dr. Dulin Keita has two primary research foci that include examining (1) risk factors and resilience resources related to cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk (e.g., diet, physical activity, obesity) and (2) HIV outcomes among children and racial/ethnic minorities.

Research Profile

Kim Gans, PhD, MPH

Adjunct Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences

Dr. Gans’ research includes intervention development and evaluation research in community-based settings to improve eating habits and prevent obesity. The majority of her research has been with ethnic minority, low income and/or low literate populations and an emphasis of her work has been innovative health communication technologies including theory-based tailored print and video interventions using computerized expert systems.

Research Profile

Barton M. Laws, PhD

Assistant Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice

Dr. Laws is medical sociologist with a particular interest in people's experience of health and illness and of medical services; and provider-patient relationships and communication. The long-term goal of his research is to support the continuing transformation of medicine and health care more broadly into an institution built around patients' needs: physical, psychological, and social.

Research Profile

Bess H. Marcus, PhD

Dean of School of Public Health, Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences

Dr. Marcus is a clinical health psychologist whose primary research interests are in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and the promotion of women's health. She has spent over 25 years conducting research primarily on physical activity behavior and has developed a series of assessment instruments to measure psychosocial mediators of physical activity behavior as well as low-cost interventions to promote physical activity behavior in community, workplace, and primary care settings.

Research Profile

Matthew J. Mimiaga, ScD, MPH

Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Professor of Epidemiology, Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior

Dr. Mimiaga’s research program focuses on interventions to decrease sexual risk in HIV primary and secondary prevention; biobehavioral interventions to enhance antiretroviral medication uptake and adherence; psychosocial treatment interventions for stimulant use disorder and concurrent HIV risk; infectious disease and psychiatric epidemiology; and global health research

Research Profile

Amy S. Nunn, ScD, MS

Associate Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Associate Professor of Medicine

Dr. Nunn conducts applied research on how to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in HIV infection, treatment and care, and is known for her innovative community partnerships to address disparities, including engaging clergy and community leaders in HIV testing, treatment and social marketing campaigns.

Research Profile

Don Operario, PhD

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences

Dr. Operario is committed to research that addresses health inequities in the United States and in international settings. His current research involves developing and testing psychosocial and community-based health interventions for reducing HIV transmission, as well as other mixed methods research aiming to understand the determinants of psychological and behavioral health in racial/ethnic minority populations and sexual and gender minority populations. 

Research Profile

Patricia Risica, DrPH

Associate Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Associate Professor of Epidemiology


Professor Risica's research interests include obesity, nutritional epidemiology and eating behaviors; the influence of location of fat on the body with disease risk; breastfeeding; and diabetes, smoking cessation and avoidance of environmental tobacco smoke, heart disease and obesity, and early detection of melanoma. Her research interests encompass many aspects of intervention development and assessment of interventions in practical, community settings.

Research Profile

Maricruz Rivera-Hernandez, PhD

Assistant Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice

Dr. Rivera-Hernandez’s research interests include racial and ethnic disparities in access to and quality of care, and health outcomes of older adults. Her specific research focus is on health disparities and healthcare issues of elderly Hispanics.

Research Profile

Jacob J. van den Berg, PhD, MS

Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Assistant Professor of Medicine

Dr. van den Berg's research focuses on the development, implementation, and evaluation of community-based behavioral and biomedical health interventions for underserved and marginalized groups. He is particularly interested in advancing the integration of health informatics (eHealth/mHealth) and biobehavioral strategies for preventing HIV/STIs and substance use among racial/ethnic and sexual and gender minority populations.

Research Profile

Increasing Physical Activity in Latino Men through Tailoring: Hombres Saludables

Multiple Principal Investigators: Dr. Akilah Dulin, Dr. Kim Gans, Dr. Bess Marcus
Funding: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, NIH
Years: 2016-2019

Unidas por la Vida: A Healthy lifestyle intervention for High-risk Latinas

Principal Investigator: Dr. Bess Marcus
Funding: University of California, Irvine
Years: 2017-2019

Promoting Physical Activity in Latinas via Interactive Web-based Technology

Principal Investigator: Dr. Bess Marcus
Funding: National Cancer Institute, NIH
Years: 2017-2022

Culturally and Linguistically Adapted Physical Activity Intervention for Latinas

Principal Investigator: Dr. Bess Marcus
Funding: National Institute of Nursing Research, NIH
Years: 2018-2019

Characterizing the HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis care continuum for African American and Hispanic/Latino men who have sex with men

Multiple Principal Investigators: Dr. Amy S. Nunn & Dr. Philip A. Chan
Funding: National Institute of Mental Health, NIH
Years: 2017-2022

Nursing Home Care Disparities for Hispanic Medicare Advantage and Fee-for-Service Beneficiaries with Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias

Principal Investigator: Maricruz Rivera-Hernandez
Funding: National Institute on Aging, NIH
Years: 2018-2019

Reaching Black/African and Hispanic/Latino MSM through Social Media about Treatment as Prevention and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jacob van den Berg
Funding: National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, NIH
Years: 2016-2020

Almeida, J., Biello, K. B., Pedraza, F., Wintner, S., & Viruell-Fuentes, E. (2016). The association between anti-immigrant policies and perceived discrimination among Latinos in the US: A multilevel analysis. SSM - Population Health, 2, 897–903.

Anderson, K., Biello, K., Rosenberger, J. G., Novak, D., Mayer, K., Carey, K., & Mimiaga, M. J. (2018). The impact of social support and partner relationship dynamics on engagement in HIV care and antiretroviral treatment adherence among MSM in Latin America. AIDS Care, 30(11), 1406–1412.

Benitez, T. J., Tasevska, N., Coe, K., & Keller, C. (2017). Cultural Relevance of the Transtheoretical Model in Activity Promotion: Mexican-American Women’s use of the Process of Change. Publisher. Retrieved from

Benitez, T. J., Dodgson, J. E., Coe, K., & Keller, C. (2016). Utility of Acculturation in Physical Activity Research in Latina Adults: An Integrative Review of Literature. Health Education & Behavior: The Official Publication of the Society for Public Health Education, 43(3), 256–270.

Benitez, T. J., Cherrington, A. L., Joseph, R. P., Keller, C., Marcus, B., Meneses, K., … Pekmezi, D. (2015). Using Web-Based Technology to Promote Physical Activity in Latinas: Results of the Muévete Alabama Pilot Study. Computers, Informatics, Nursing: CIN, 33(7), 315–324.

Biello, K. B., Oldenburg, C. E., Rosenberger, J., Mayer, K. H., Novak, D., & Mimiaga, M. J. (2016). Is Involvement in Sex Work Associated with Engagement in HIV-Related Medical Care in Latin American Men Who Have Sex with Men? Results of a Large, Multinational Internet Survey. LGBT Health, 3(3), 233–237.

Biello, K. B., Oldenburg, C. E., Safren, S. A., Rosenberger, J. G., Novak, D. S., Mayer, K. H., & Mimiaga, M. J. (2016). Multiple syndemic psychosocial factors are associated with reduced engagement in HIV care among a multinational, online sample of HIV-infected MSM in Latin America. AIDS Care, 28 Suppl 1, 84–91.

Born, W., Greiner, K. A., Sylvia, E., Butler, J., & Ahluwalia, J. S. (2004). Knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about end-of-life care among inner-city African Americans and Latinos. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 7(2), 247–256.

Casazza, K., Dulin-Keita, A., Gower, B. A., & Fernandez, J. R. (2009). Intrabdominal fat is related to metabolic risk factors in Hispanic Americans, African Americans and in girls. Acta Paediatrica (Oslo, Norway: 1992), 98(12), 1965–1971.

Chasan-Taber, L., Marcus, B. H., Milagros, R. C., Tucker, K. L., Hartman, S. J., Pekow, P., Braun, B., Moore Simas, T. A., Solomon, C. G., Manson, J. E., & Markenson, G. (2014). Estudio Parto: Postpartum diabetes prevention program for Hispanic women with abnormal glucose tolerance in pregnancy: A randomized controlled trial-study protocol. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 14(1), 100.

Dumont, D. M., Gjelsvik, A., Chen, N., & Rich, J. D. (2013). Hispanics, incarceration, and TB/HIV screening: a missed opportunity for prevention. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 15(4), 711–717.

Dominick, G. M., Dunsiger, S. I., Pekmezi, D. W., Larsen, B., Marquez, B., Nodora, J., … Marcus, B. H. (2015). Moderating Effects of Health Literacy on Change in Physical Activity Among Latinas in a Randomized Trial. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 2(3), 351–357.

Edeza, A., Galarraga, O., Novak, D., Mayer, K., Rosenberger, J., Mimiaga, M., & Biello, K. (2019). The role of sexual risk behaviors on PrEP awareness and interest among men who have sex with men in Latin America. International Journal of STD & AIDS, 30(6), 542–549.

Hawkins, M., Marcus, B., Pekow, P., Rosal, M. C., Tucker, K. L., Spencer, R. M. C., & Chasan-Taber, L. (2018). Physical Activity and Sleep Quality and Duration During Pregnancy Among Hispanic Women: Estudio PARTO. Behavioral Sleep Medicine, 1–14.

Kendzor, D. E., Businelle, M. S., Reitzel, L. R., Rios, D. M., Scheuermann, T. S., Pulvers, K., & Ahluwalia, J. S. (2014). Everyday discrimination is associated with nicotine dependence among African American, Latino, and White smokers. Nicotine & Tobacco Research: Official Journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, 16(6), 633–640.

Larsen, B. A., Noble, M. L., Murray, K. E., & Marcus, B. H. (2014). Physical activity in Latino men and women: Facilitators, barriers, and interventions. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

Larsen, B. A., Dunsiger, S., Hartman, S., Nodora, J., Pekmezi, D., Marquez, B., Noble, M.L., Rojas, C., & Marcus, B. H. (2014). Activo: Assessing the feasibility of designing and implementing a physical activity intervention for Latino men. International Journal of Men’s Health, 13(1), 60-71.

Larsen, B. A., Pekmezi, D., Marquez, B., Benitez, T. J., & Marcus, B. H. (2013). Physical activity in Latinas: Social and environmental influences. Women’s Health (London, England), 9(2), 201–210.

Laws, M. B., & Carballeira, N. (2003). Use of nonallopathic healing methods by Latina women at midlife. American Journal of Public Health, 93(4), 524–525; author reply 525.

Laws, M. B., & Mayo, S. J. (1998). The Latina Breast Cancer Control Study, year one: factors predicting screening mammography utilization by urban Latina women in Massachusetts. Journal of Community Health, 23(4), 251–267. PMID: 9693984

Lee, C. S., González Castro, F., Nicholls, M. E., O’Connor, B., Marosi, S., & Colby, S. M. (2018). Gender differences in drinking behavior among Latino/a heavy drinkers. The International Journal on Drug Policy, 64, 79–86.

Lee, C. S., López, S. R., Colby, S. M., Rohsenow, D., Hernández, L., Borrelli, B., & Caetano, R. (2013). Culturally adapted motivational interviewing for Latino heavy drinkers: results from a randomized clinical trial. Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, 12(4), 356–373.

Lee, C. S., Colby, S. M., Rohsenow, D. J., López, S. R., Hernández, L., & Caetano, R. (2013). Acculturation stress and drinking problems among urban heavy drinking Latinos in the Northeast. Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, 12(4), 308–320.

Lee, C. S., López, S. R., Hernández, L., Colby, S. M., Caetano, R., Borrelli, B., & Rohsenow, D. (2011). A cultural adaptation of motivational interviewing to address heavy drinking among Hispanics. Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology, 17(3), 317–324.

Lee, C. S., Almeida, J., Colby, S. M., Tavares, T., & Rohsenow, D. J. (2016). Acculturation, hazardous drinking and depressive symptomatology among Hispanics enrolled in a clinical trial. Addiction Research & Theory, 24(1), 69–79.

Marcus, B. H., Dunsiger, S. I., Pekmezi, D. W., Larsen, B. A., Bock, B. C., Gans, K. M., … Tilkemeier, P. (2013). The Seamos Saludables study: A randomized controlled physical activity trial of Latinas. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 45(5), 598–605.

Neighbors, C. J., Marquez, D. X., & Marcus, B. H. (2008). Leisure-Time Physical Activity Disparities Among Hispanic Subgroups in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 98(8), 1460–1464.

Pérez, A., Santamaria, E. K., & Operario, D. (2018). A Systematic Review of Behavioral Interventions to Reduce Condomless Sex and Increase HIV Testing for Latino MSM. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 20(5), 1261–1276.

Pekmezi, D. W., Neighbors, C. J., Lee, C. S., Gans, K. M., Bock, B. C., Morrow, K. M., … Marcus, B. H. (2009). A culturally adapted physical activity intervention for Latinas: A randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 37(6), 495–500.

Pulvers, K., Cupertino, A. P., Scheuermann, T. S., Sanderson Cox, L., Ho, Y.-Y., Nollen, N. L., … Ahluwalia, J. S. (2018). Daily and Nondaily Smoking Varies by Acculturation among English-Speaking, US Latino Men and Women. Ethnicity & Disease, 28(2), 105–114.

Pulvers, K., Romero, D. R., Blanco, L., Sakuma, K.-L. K., Ahluwalia, J. S., & Trinidad, D. R. (2015). Light and intermittent smoking among California Black, Hispanic/Latino, and non-Hispanic White men and women. Nicotine & Tobacco Research: Official Journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, 17(6), 755–759.

Reisner, S. L., Perez-Brumer, A., Oldenburg, C. E., Gamarel, K. E., Malone, J., Leung, K., … Biello, K. B. (2019). Characterizing HIV risk among cisgender men in Latin America who report transgender women as sexual partners: HIV risk in Latin America men. International Journal of STD & AIDS, 30(4), 378–385.

Rivera-Hernandez, M., Kumar, A., Epstein-Lubow, G., & Thomas, K. S. (2018). Disparities in Nursing Home Use and Quality Among African American, Hispanic, and White Medicare Residents With Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias. Journal of Aging and Health, 898264318767778.

Rivera-Hernandez, M., Rahman, M., Mukamel, D. B., Mor, V., & Trivedi, A. N. (2018). Quality of Post-Acute Care in Skilled Nursing Facilities That Disproportionately Serve Black and Hispanic Patients. The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.

Rivera-Hernandez, M., Leyva, B., Keohane, L. M., & Trivedi, A. N. (2016). Quality of Care for White and Hispanic Medicare Advantage Enrollees in the United States and Puerto Rico. JAMA Internal Medicine, 176(6), 787–794.

Scheuermann, T. S., Nollen, N. L., Luo, X., Cox, L. S., & Ahluwalia, J. S. (2017). Intent to quit, quit attempts, and perceived health risk reduction among African American, Latino, and White nondaily and daily smokers in the United States. Ethnicity & Health, 1–19.

Soto, S. H., Arredondo, E. M., Marcus, B. H., Shakya, H. B., Roesch, S., & Ayala, G. X. (2017). Effects of Latino children on their mothers' dietary intake and dietary behaviors: The role of children's acculturation and the mother-child acculturation gap. Social Science & Medicine, 191, 125-133.

van den Berg, J. J., Silverman, T., Fernandez, M. I., Henny, K. D., Gaul, Z. J., Sutton, M. Y., & Operario, D. (2018). Using eHealth to Reach Black and Hispanic Men Who Have Sex With Men Regarding Treatment as Prevention and Preexposure Prophylaxis: Protocol for a Small Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR Research Protocols, 7(7), e11047.

Wang, K., White Hughto, J. M., Biello, K. B., O’Cleirigh, C., Mayer, K. H., Rosenberger, J. G., … Mimiaga, M. J. (2017). The role of distress intolerance in the relationship between childhood sexual abuse and problematic alcohol use among Latin American MSM. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 175, 151–156.

Zaller, N., Yang, C., Operario, D., Latkin, C., McKirnan, D., O’Donnell, L., … Spikes, P. (2017). Alcohol and cocaine use among Latino and African American MSM in 6 US cities. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 80, 26–32.

Master of Public Health

Sanchez, Kelly C., "Fatal Overdoses in Hispanic/Latino Neighborhoods throughout Rhode Island" (2018). Public Health Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.