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De Jesus

Healthcare policy - USA

Research topics


Health and Health Care Among Vulnerable Populations in France: The World Health Organization (WHO) ’s Social Determinants of Health Framework

This project is situated at the nexus of urban/metropolitan studies, health and immigration policy, and global public health. Adopting the World Health Organization (WHO)’s social determinants of health conceptual framework and a multi-method approach, the main aim of the research is to examine the individual, intermediary as well as the structural and social determinants of migrant health. Specifically, the project will allow for a deeper understanding of how im/migrants in the local context perceive health and to what degree they engage in preventive health behaviors; the living and working conditions of im/migrants in the local context and the extent to which these conditions contribute to their health outcomes; the barriers and facilitators to accessing health care services; and how health practitioners perceive health and health care among im/migrants vis-à-vis their interactions and experiences with im/migrant patients in Lyon.

The experiences of im/migrants will be understood within a larger structural framework, tying public policies (immigration and health care) to individual experiences. The data from the research project will generate new knowledge related to health and healthcare access among vulnerable populations in France, therefore, filling a critical gap in the global public health literature. The research will also test relevant theories in the field related to the immigrant health paradox and the theory of health transition. Furthermore, the data will inform a context-appropriate patient navigation model of care, which was developed in North America and is currently being studied at the HESPER research laboratory. This research project will have the potential to directly benefit health care policy and service delivery for vulnerable populations in Lyon and other regions of France.


Activities / Resume


Maria De Jesus is a professor and multidisciplinary scholar in the area of global health at the School of International Studies at American University (AU) in Washington, DC. She is currently a research fellow at AU’s Center on Health, Risk, and Society. Her area of expertise is in the area of health and social disparities particularly among vulnerable populations, including im/migrant and minority populations and her research interests include HIV and cancer inequalities, and other health inequalities; culturally responsive health communication; and the social determinants of health. Prior to her faculty appointment, she was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health where she conducted several large National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded community-based research studies. She has received numerous grants and awards as well as published over 25 peer-reviewed articles in high impact peer-reviewed journals. She received her Bachelor’s degree at McGill University and her Master’s degree and Ph.D. in psychology at Boston College.



  1. De Jesus, M. & Hernandes, C. (2019). Generalized violence as a threat to health and well-being: A qualitative study of youth living in urban settings in Central America’s “Northern Triangle.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(18): 3465-3482
  2. De Jesus, M. & Williams, D.R. (2018). The Care and Prevention in the United States Demonstration Project: A call for more focus on the social determinants of HIV/AIDS. Public Health Reports, 133(Supplement 2): 28S-33S.
  3. De Jesus, M., Taylor, J., Maine, C., & Nalls, P. (2016). A one-size-fits-all HIV prevention and education approach?: Interpreting divergent HIV risk perceptions between African American and East African immigrant women in Washington, DC using the proximate-determinants conceptual framework. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 43(2): 78-83.
  4. De Jesus, M. (2016). How religiosity shapes health perceptions and behaviors of Latina immigrants: Is it an enabling or prohibitive factor? Psychology, Health, and Medicine, 21(1): 128-133.
  5. Palazzolo, S., Yamanis, T., De Jesus, M., Maguire-Marshall, M., & Barker, S. (2015). Documentation status as a contextual determinant of HIV risk among young transgender Latinas. LGBT Health, 3(2): 132-138.
  6. De Jesus, M., Carrete, C., Maine, C., & Nalls, P. (2015). Attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors toward HIV testing among African American and East African immigrant women in Washington, D.C.: Implications for targeted HIV testing promotion and communication strategies. Sexually Transmitted Infections, 91:8 569-575.
  7. De Jesus, M., Carrete, C., Maine, C., & Nalls, P. (2015). ‘Getting tested is almost like going to the Salem witch trials’: Discordant discourses between western public health messages and sociocultural expectations surrounding HIV testing among East African immigrant women. AIDS Care: Psychological and Socio-Medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV, 27(5): 604-611.
  8. De Jesus, M. & Miller, E.B. (2015). Examining breast cancer screening barriers among Central American and Mexican immigrant women: Fatalistic beliefs or structural factors? Health Care for Women International, 36(5): 593-607.
  9. De Jesus, M. & Kim, K. (2014). Bridging the gap in health communication: U.S. biomedical and immigrant Latina ethnomedical models of healthcare. Intercultural Management Quarterly, 15(3): 7-9.
  10. De Jesus, M. & Xiao, C. (2014). Predicting health care utilization among Latinos: Health locus of control beliefs or access factors? Health Education & Behavior, 41(4): 423-430.
  11. De Jesus, M. & Earl, T. R. (2014). Perspectives on quality mental health care from Brazilian and Cape Verdean outpatients: Implications for effective patient-centered policies and models of care. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being, 9: 228-239. Greaney, M.L.,
  12. De Jesus, M. et al. (2014). Designing audience-centered interactive voice response messages to promote cancer screenings among low-income Latinas. Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice, and Policy, 11:230-213.
  13. De Jesus, M. & Xiao, C. (2013). Cross-border health care utilization among the Hispanic population in the United States: implications for closing the health care access gap. Ethnicity & Health, 18(3): 297-314.
  14. De Jesus, M. (2013). The impact of mass media health communication on health decision-making and medical advice-seeking behavior of U.S. Hispanic population. Health Communication, 28(5): 525-529. 13. Shelton, R.C., Snavely, A.C.,
  15. De Jesus, M. Othus, M.D., & Allen, J.D. (2013). HPV vaccine decision making and acceptance: Does religion play a role? Journal of Religion and Health, 52(4): 1120-1130.
  16. De Jesus, M. (2012). Promoting culturally responsive health communication. Intercultural Management Quarterly, 13(2): 9-11.
  17. De Jesus, M. & Xiao, C. (2012). Predicting Internet use as a source of health information: a “language divide” among the Hispanic population in the United States. Policy and Internet, 4(2): 1-11.
  18. Allen, J.D., De Jesus, M., Mars, D., Laura, T., Cloutier, L., & Shelton, R.C. (2012). Decision-making about the HPV vaccine among ethnically diverse parents: Implications for health communications. Journal of Oncology: 1-5.
  19. De Jesus, M., Puleo, E., Shelton, R.C., & Emmons, K.M. (2010). Factors associated with colorectal cancer screening among a low-income, multiethnic, highly insured population: Does provider’s understanding of the patient’s social context matter? Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 87(2): 236-243.
  20. De Jesus, M., Shelton, R., Puleo, E., & Emmons, K. (2010). Associations between perceived social environment and neighborhood safety: Health implications. Health & Place, 16(5): 1007-1013.
  21. De Jesus, M. (2010). Institutional barriers and strategies to health promotion: perspectives and experiences of Cape Verdean women health promoters. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 12(3): 398-407.
  22. De Jesus, M., Parast, L., Shelton, R.C., Kokkinogenis, K., Othus, M., Li, Y., & Allen, J.D. (2009). Actual versus preferred sources of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) information among Black, White, and Hispanic parents: implications for health care providers and parent education. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine: The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network, 163(11): 1066-1067.
  23. De Jesus, M. (2009). Mutuality at the center: Health promotion with Cape Verdean immigrant women. Ethnicity & Health, 14(1): 45-59.
  24. De Jesus, M. (2009). The importance of social context in understanding and promoting low-income immigrant women’s health. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 20(1): 90-97.
  25. De Jesus, M. (2007). HIV/AIDS and immigrant Cape Verdean women: Contextualized perspectives of Cape Verdean community advocates. American Journal of Community Psychology, 39(1-2): 121-131