Marni Sommer

Marni Sommer

Marni Sommer

Associate Professor
Sociomedical Sciences


Website address: Email:


Marni Sommer, DrPH, MSN, RN, has worked in global health and development on issues ranging from improving access to essential medicines to humanitarian relief in conflict settings. Dr. Sommer's particular areas of expertise include conducting participatory research with adolescents, understanding and promoting healthy transitions to adulthood, the intersection of public health and education, gender and sexual health, and the implementation and evaluation of adolescent-focused interventions. Her doctoral research explored girls' experiences of menstruation, puberty and schooling in Tanzania, and the ways in which the onset of puberty might be disrupting girls' academic performance and healthy transition to adulthood. Dr. Sommer presently leads the Gender, Adolescent Transitions and Environment (GATE) Program, based in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences. GATE explores the intersections of gender, health, education and the environment for girls and boys transitioning into adulthood in low-income countries and in the United States. GATE also generates research and practical resources focused on improving the integration of menstrual hygiene management and gender supportive sanitation solutions into global humanitarian response.



DrPH, 2008, Columbia University
MPH, 2001, Johns Hopkins University, School of Public Health
MS, 2001, Johns Hopkins University, School of Nursing
BS, 1999, Johns Hopkins University, School of Nursing
BA, 1994, University of Pennsylvania

Mailman Affiliations

Faculty, Center for the Study of Culture, Politics, and Health
Faculty, Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion
Faculty, Department of Sociomedical Sciences

Columbia Affiliations

Menstrual Health & Gender Justice Working Group Member, Center for the Study of Social Difference

Other Affiliations

Member, Global Health Council, 2001- 2009
Member, Comparative and International Education Society, 2009 - 2011

Honors & Awards

Doctoral Dissertation with Distinction, 2008
Marisa de Castro Benton Award for Outstanding Dissertation in Sociomedical Sciences, 2008
Award for Excellence in Global Health for a Doctoral Student, 2008
The Johns Hopkins Nurses' Alumni Association Award, 1999

Areas of Expertise

Adolescent Health, Underserved Populations, Women's Health, Global Health, Refugee Health, Maternal Health, Reproductive Health

Select Global Activities

The Girls and Boys Puberty Book Project: A project focused on developing, publishing, evaluating and distributing girls' and boy's puberty books aimed at 10-14 year olds. Provides basic guidance to girls on menstruation and body change, and to boys on puberty changes and peer pressures. Books published in Tanzania, Ghana, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Madagascar, and Pakistan, and over one and a half million hard copies disseminated. New book underway in Kenya.
Menstrual Hygiene Management in Emergencies Toolkit: Recently completed project conducted in partnership with the International Rescue Committee to build the evidence on menstrual hygiene management (MHM) in humanitarian response, and to develop a toolkit for responding to MHM in emergency contexts. The MHM in Emergencies Toolkit was launched in October 2017, and a new project is underway in partnership with the IRC to build the evidence on MHM disposal and waste management in emergency contexts.
Structural Approaches to Youth Alcohol Use and HIV Risk in Tanzania, Tanzania: A recently completed NIH funded study aimed at exploring adolescent alcohol use in the context of a new national alcohol policy in Tanzania. The participatory research with adolescent girls and boys, and the adults in their lives, sought to better understand the accessibility, affordability and availability of alcohol to youth in urban Tanzania, and the subsequent risky sexual behaviors in which they engage in after drinking alcohol.

Select Publications

Sommer, M., Schmitt, M., Ogello, T., Mathenge, P., Mark, M., Clatworthy, D., Khandakji, S., Ratnayake, R. (2018) Pilot testing and evaluation of a toolkit for menstrual hygiene management in emergencies in three refugee camps in Northwest Tanzania. Journal of International Humanitarian Action 3:6.
Sommer, M., Caruso, B., Mahon, T., Zients, S., Jones, M., & Phillips-Howard, P. (2017) Beyond menstrual hygiene: Addressing vaginal bleeding throughout the life course in low- and middle-income countries. BMJ Global, Online July 27, 2017.
Sommer, M., Hirsh, J.S., Nathanson, C. & Parker, R. (2015) Comfortably, safely and without shame: Defining menstrual hygiene management as a public health issue. American Journal of Public Health. 105(7): 1302-1311.
Sommer, M., Sutherland, C. & Chandra-Mouli, V. (2015) Putting menarche and girls into the global population health agenda. Reproductive Health, 12(24). Published online Mar. 26, 2015. DOI: 10.11186/s12978-015-0009-8.
Sommer, M., Likindikoki, S., & Kaaya, S. (2015) "Bend a fish when the fish is not yet dry": Adolescent boys' perceptions of sexual risk in Tanzania. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44(3): 583-595.
Sommer, M. & Sahin, M. (2013) Overcoming the taboo: Advancing the global agenda for menstrual hygiene management for schoolgirls. American Journal of Public Health, 103(9): 1556-1559.
Sommer, M. (2013) Menarche: An overlooked indicator for population health in low-income countries. Public Health Reports 128(5) 399-401
Sommer, M. (2012) Menstrual hygiene management in humanitarian emergencies: Gaps and recommendations. Waterlines 31(1-2) 83-104
Sommer, M. (2011) An overlooked priority: Puberty in sub-Saharan Africa. American Journal of Public Health 101(6) 6-16
Sommer, M. (2009) Ideologies on sexuality, menstruation and risk: Girls' experiences of puberty and schooling in northern Tanzania. Culture, Health and Sexuality 11(4) 383-398

Back to Top