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Thespina Yamanis

Assistant Professor
School of International Service

  • Dr. Thespina (Nina) Yamanis’ professional interests are in identifying the mechanisms that link social and economic conditions to global health disparities and in designing community-based interventions to improve health among the most vulnerable groups. She has conducted qualitative and quantitative field research for the past seven years on the social and sexual networks of young, urban men in Tanzania and their influence on the men’s HIV risk behavior. She is Co-Investigator on a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct a combined health promotion/microfinance intervention for young Tanzanian men. She is also leading two studies on HIV risk among sexual and racial minority men in Washington, DC and collaborates with graduate students on these projects. She has conducted research on violence against women at the World Health Organization, as well as research on migration and mental health with colleagues at the Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública in Mexico. She teaches courses on health in developing countries and micropolitics of development.
  • Degrees

    PhD & MPH, Health Behavior & Education, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, BA Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC)
  • Favorite Spot on Campus:

    SIS Building

    Book Currently Reading:

    Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

    Languages Spoken:

    Kiswahili, Spanish, Greek, and a bit of French
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Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Research Interests

Dr. Yamanis’ research focuses on improving the health and well-being of underserved populations in developing countries.  Her interests are in understanding and targeting the social determinants of HIV risk and relationship violence, evaluating and implementing novel methods for reaching hidden and vulnerable populations such as sex workers, and developing multi-level interventions that improve health behaviors.  Her current research focuses on harnessing the power and influence of social networks to promote adolescent health in sub-Saharan Africa.

Selected Publications

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

  • Health Disparities Scholar, National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Program, 2010   
  • Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 2007   
  • C.V. Starr International Research Award, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2006   
  • Global Health Fellow, Duke University's Sanford Institute of Public Policy Program on Global Policy and Governance in Geneva, Switzerland, 2006   
  • Intern, World Health Organization, Department of Gender, Women & Health, 2006   
  • Meritorious Student Paper Award, Society of Behavioral Medicine, 2006   
  • Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health, 2004   
  • Lucy S. Morgan Fellowship, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for outstanding leadership in Health Behavior and Health Education, 2004   
  • Phi Beta Kappa Honorary Society, 1995

Professional Presentations

  • “HIV Risk Behaviors among Young Male Injecting Drug Users in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania”, International AIDS Conference, 2010.   
  • “Partnership-level Determinants of Relationship Violence by Young Men in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania”, International AIDS Conference, 2010.   
  • “Neighborhood Poverty and Lifetime Depression among Older, Rural Adults”, Society of Behavioral Medicine, 2006.      

AU Expert

Area of Expertise: HIV/AIDS risk behavior, youth, sub-Saharan Africa, hard-to-reach populations, violence against women and HIV

Additional Information: Thespina Yamanis’ professional interests are in identifying the mechanisms that link social and economic conditions to global health disparities and in designing community-based interventions to improve health among the most vulnerable groups. She has conducted qualitative and quantitative field research for the past five years on the social networks of young, urban men in Tanzania and their influence on the men’s HIV risk behavior and partner violence. Her work is part of a grant funded by the National Institutes of Health in which Yamanis and colleagues are piloting a combined health promotion/microfinance intervention for the men. In addition to her work in Tanzania, she has conducted research on violence against women at the World Health Organization, as well as research on migration and mental health with colleagues at the Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública in Mexico. She currently teaches courses on health in developing countries and on micropolitics of development.

Media Relations
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