Daniel Giovenco, PhD, MPH, together with Lerner Center research assistants, recently published the results of a large study on tobacco marketing in New York City, which was featured in the Nicotine & Tobacco Research journal. Data collected from a representative sample of nearly 900 tobacco retailers across all 5 boroughs showed that inexpensive, combusted tobacco products (i.e., cigars and cigarillos) were more likely to be carried and advertised in low-income and predominantly non-White neighborhoods, whereas non-combusted products, such as smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes, were more widely available in largely White and higher income neighborhoods. The authors concluded that public health policies should prioritize reducing the appeal and affordability of the most harmful tobacco products to help reduce health disparities and tobacco-related inequities. This news is particularly exciting for the Lerner Center because it is the first peer-reviewed, scientific journal publication for 2017 Lerner Center Fellow July Merizier, now a Program Coordinator at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.


Marita Murrman, EdD, MS, directs the Region 2 Public Health Training Center (PHTC) – one of ten regional PHTCs funded by Health Resources and Services Administration. Between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2022, the goal of the Center is to strengthen the technical, scientific, and leadership competencies of the current and future public health workforce in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Teh Center is located at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. With help from three training and technical assistance partners, Rutgers University Center for Public Health Workforce Development, Impactivo LLC, and the New York State Association of County Health Officials, the Center prepares the public health workforce for complex public health challenges through four activities, including: 

  1. Training needs assessments of the governmental public health workforce

  2. Developing and offering training to meet identified high-priority needs

  3. Establishing student field placements in public health agencies

  4. Connecting students with faculty to work on collaborative projects to enhance public health services to medically underserved areas 

Puberty Book Project

Marni Sommer, DrPH, MSN, RN, is beginning a three-part, long-term project expanding upon the work in relation to her globally-published puberty books.

Building Evidence on the Impact: To develop empirical evidence for the impact that Dr. Sommer’s puberty books have in low-income countries for improving girls’ health, wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem, an evaluation of the Ethiopia Girl's Puberty Book will be conducted in collaboration with Save the Children. The findings will be disseminated to adolescent health researchers, practitioners and donors with the aim of garnering resources to develop and distribute puberty books in many more low-income countries around the world.

Expanding Puberty Books to the US: Dr. Sommer and her team are conducting a systematic review to identify pubertal knowledge being received by girls from low-income settings in the US today, and the specific challenges girls face as they transition into adulthood. The review will result in a publication that will mobilize the public heath community to action, and inform the development of a girls’ puberty book in the United States. 

Menu-Labeling Policy Content Analysis

Rachel Shelton, ScD, MPH, and James Colgrove, PhD, MPH, are examining how public health and commercial interests shape communication and public discourse around public health issues. Using content analysis methodology, they will examine legislative documents and media coverage related to menu labeling laws and policies associated with the Affordable Care Act. The article will discuss how these findings have direct implications for health message framing issues and could inform the criteria used to develop and evaluate health campaigns and message development. The article would serve as a springboard for action to help change the conversation around a select health issue, and could be used as a tool to inform how practitioners and researchers frame policies and campaigns.

Lerner Center Faculty Publications

How Alcohol, Space, and Time Influence Young People's Sexual Encounters in Tanzania: A Qualitative Analysis.

Sommer M, Parker R, Msacky G, Kajula L, Kaaya S.

Archives of Sexual Behavior. 2019 Jan 10. 

PrEP Eligibility among At-Risk Women in Southern US: Associated Factors, Awareness and Acceptability. 

Patel AS, Goparaju L, Sales JM, Mehta CC, Blackstock OJ, Seidman D, Ofotokun I, Kempf MC, Fischl MA, Golub ET, Adimora AA, French AL, DeHovitz J, Wingood G, Kassaye S, Sheth AN.

Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. 2019 Jan 3.

Cigarette Use Among Individuals with Alcohol Use Disorders in the United States, 2002 to 2016: Trends Overall and by Race/Ethnicity.

Weinberger AH, Pacek LR, Giovenco DP, Galea S, Zvolensky MJ, Gbedemah M, Goodwin RD.

Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research. 2019 Jan. 

France's Citizen Consultation on Vaccination and the Challenges of Participatory Democracy in Health. 

Ward JK, Cafiero F, Fretigny R, Colgrove J, Seror V. 

Social Science Medicine. 2019 Jan. 

Use of Social Network Analysis in the Development, Dissemination, Implementation, and Sustainability of Health Behavior Interventions for Adults: A Systematic Review.

Shelton R.C., Lee M, Brotzman L.E., Crookes D.M., Jandorf L, Erwin D, Gage-Bouchard E. 

Social Sciences & Medicine. 2018 Dec 18. 

New York City Childcare Influenza Vaccine Mandate.

Yang YT, Colgrove J.

JAMA Pediatrics. 2018 Dec 3.

Examining the External Validity of the CRUZA Study, A Randomized Trial to Promote Implementation of Evidence-Based Cancer Control Programs by Faith-Based Organizations. 

Allen JD, Shelton RC, Kephart L, Tom LS, Leyva B, Ospino H, Cuevas AG.

Translational Behavioral Medicine. 2018 Nov 29.  

Buffering Internalization of HIV-Stigma: Implications for Treatment Adherance and Depression.

Turan B, Crockett KB, Buyukcan-Tetik A, Kempf MC, Konkle-Parker D, Wilson TE, Tien PC, Wingood G, Neilands TB, Johnson MO, Weiser SD, Turan JM. 

Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. 2018 Nov 22. 

Neighborhood Differences in Alternative Tobacco Product Availability and Advertising in New York City: Implications for Health Disparities

Giovenco DP, Spillane TE, Merizier JM.

Nicotine and Tobacco Research. 2018 Nov 18. 

Promoting Adolescent Girls' Well-Being in Pakistan: A Mixed-Methods Study of Change Over Time, Feasibility, and Acceptability of the COMPASS Program.

Asghar K, Mayevskaya Y, Sommer M, Razzaque A, Laird B, Khan Y, Qureshi S, Falb K, Stark L.

Prevention Science. 2018 Nov. 

Evaluating the Impact and Equity of a Tobacco-Free Pharmacy Law on Retailer Density in New York City Neighborhoods. 

Giovenco DP, Spillane TE, Mauro CM, Hernandez D. 

Tobacco Control. 2018

Areas of Focus

Health promotion refers to educational, political, regulatory, and organizational support for behavior and environmental changes that are conducive to health (Bartholomew et al., 2011). It moves beyond a focus on individual behavior, toward a wide range of social and structural interventions. Health promotion initiatives are directed at changing social, political, environmental, and economic conditions to support individual and population health (WHO, 1986). 

Health communication provides guidance on how to inform and influence individual, community and institutional decisions that affect health (US HHS, 2014).  As a subfield of health promotion, health communication works to influence policy, regulation, practices, and programs that support desired behavior changes (Schiavo, 2013). Health communication can take the form of discrete health messages, or be incorporated into existing communication media such as news media, advertising sponsorships, and popular entertainment. As such, health communication includes the use of modern multimedia communications, or traditional forms like storytelling, puppet shows, and songs to influence behavior change (Nutbeam, 1998).


  • Bartholomew, L. K., Parcel, G. S., Kok, G., Gottlieb, N. H. & Fernandez, M. E. (2011). Planning Health Promotion Programs: An Intervention Mapping Approach. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

  • Nutbeam, D. (1998). Health Promotion Glossary. Health Promotion International. Oxford University Press, 13(4): 349-364.

  • Schiavo, R. (2013). Health Communication: From Theory to Practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

  • United States Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). Health Communication.

  • World Health Organization. (1986). The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion.