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Tia M. Palermo, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine
Division of Evaluative Sciences
Program in Public Health



[Currently on leave at UNICEF Office of Research—Innocenti (Florence, Italy)]


Ph.D., Public Policy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, (2009)

M.S., Economics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2005)

B.A., Economics and Spanish, State University of New York at Geneseo (2002)

Research Interests: 

Maternal and child health, gender-based violence, social policy

Current Research Projects: 

1. NICHD R03HD073461 Palermo (PI). 3/1/13-2/28/15. “Experimental evidence and validation of measures on gender-based violence.” National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), National Institutes of Health (NIH). Project Funding $157,000.
Collaborators: Amber Peterman (University of North Carolina) and Amelia Hoover Green (Drexel University).

Description: The adverse public health effects of gender-based violence include increased exposure to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), gynecological fistula, unwanted pregnancy, psychological sequelae, chronic pain, physical disability, and depression and substance abuse. Additionally, there are negative social and economic impacts, including costs of medical treatment and lost worker productivity, of gender-based violence on survivors and their families. Stakeholders including policymakers and community organizations often seek to estimate the prevalence of sexual and intimate partner violence in an effort to garner support to address it or to more accurately tailor interventions. Prevalence of gender based violence is often estimated, but many existing estimates have severe limitations. A two-part study will be conducted to address these issues. In the first part we will analyze recent data from 23 countries using Demographic and Health Surveys, and in the second part we analyze new data from an original, randomized-design survey in Uganda. The aims of our study are to (1) quantify bounds for underestimation in existing estimates of gender-based violence, including sexual violence in conflict, based on police reports and medical facility-based studies; (2) depict how women who report to medical, legal and social institutions after experiencing violence differ from women who do not seek care or report to better understand which groups are more likely to be included in current estimates of gender-based violence prevalence; and (3) test the effects of questionnaire design and fieldwork implementation on women’s reporting of sexual violence using a randomized design.

2. “Identifying the casual effect of education on adult women’s experience of intimate partner violence and forced sex in Malawi and Uganda.” 9/1/2014-8/31/2015. Role: co-PI. Collaborators: Julia Behrman (New York University) and Amber Peterman (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). Building Evidence for Primary Prevention of Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence in Low and Middle Income Countries RFP, Sexual Violence Research Initiative, Medical Research Council (MRC) South Africa. Project Funding $55,000.

Select Publications 

Palermo T, Infante Erazo M, Hurtado V.  (2015). “Women’s opinions on abortion in Chile and trends over time.” Culture, Health & Sexuality (in press).

Palermo T, Peterman A & Bleck J*. (2014). “Tip of the iceberg: Reporting and gender based violence in developing countries.”American Journal of Epidemiology, 179(5): 602-612.

Dowd JB, Palermo T, Chyu L, Adam E, McDade TW. (2014).  “Socioeconomic status, stressful life events and immune function in Add Health.” Social Science & Medicine (in press).

Pichardo M*, Arribas L, Heredia G, Coccio E, Jagroep S*, Palermo T. (2014). “IUDs as EC? Patient acceptability of the Intrauterine Device as Emergency Contraception: Evidence from Buenos Aires, Argentina.” Contraception, 90(5): 522-528.

Clouston S, Kidman R, Palermo T. (2014). “Social inequalities in vaccination among children aged 0-5 in Madagascar: The impact and importance of considering parental SES.” Vaccine, 32(28): 3533-3539.

Palermo T, Bleck J*, Westley E. (2014). “Knowledge and use of emergency contraception: A multi-country analysis.” International Perspectives in Sexual and Reproductive Health, 40(2): 79-86.

Westley E, Kapp N, Palermo T, Bleck J*. (2013). “A review of global access to emergency contraception.” International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 123(1): 4-6.

Peterman A, Ng SW, Palermo T, Lee IH. (2013). “Pregnancy, postpartum and time allocation: How does the lifecycle affect women’s labor-intensive activities in rural China, Mexico and Tanzania?” Studies in Family Planning, 4(4).

Dowd JB, Palermo T, Brite J, McDade TW, Aiello A. (2013). “Seroprevalence of Epstein-Barr Virus Infection in U.S. children ages 6-19, 2003-2010.” PLoS ONE, 8(5), e64921.

Palermo T, Rawat R, Weiser SD, Kadiyala S. (2013). “Food security is correlated with health-related quality of life outcomes among PLWH in Uganda.” PLoS ONE 8(4): e62353.

Palermo T & Dowd JB. (2012). “Childhood obesity and human capital accumulation.” Social Science & Medicine, 75: 1989-1998.

Palermo T (Corresponding Author), Kenya OVC-CT Evaluation Team. (2012). “The impact of the Kenya Cash Transfer Program for Orphans and Vulnerable Children on Household Spending.” Journal of Development Effectiveness, 4(10): 9-37.

Parente V*, Hale L, Palermo T. (2012). “Association between Breast Cancer and Allostatic Load by Race: NHANES 1999-2008.” Psycho-Oncology, Published online ahead of print 31 January 2012.

Dowd JB, Palermo T, Aiello A. (2012). “Family poverty is associated with cytomegalovirus antibody titers in U.S children,” Health Psychology, 31(1): 5-10.

Palermo T & Peterman A. “Undercounting, overcounting, and the longevity of flawed estimates: Statistics on sexual violence in conflict.” Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 89(11).

Peterman A, Palermo T, Bredenkamp C. (2011). “Sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Population-based estimates and determinants.” American Journal of Public Health, 101(6).

Campbell P, Handa S, Moroni M, Odongo S, Palermo T. (2010). “Assessing the ‘orphan effect’ in determining development outcomes for children in 11 Eastern and Southern African countries.” Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies, 5(1): 12-32.

Schiavon R, Collado ME, Troncoso E, Soto Sánchez JE, Otero Zorrilla G, Palermo T. (2010). “Characteristics of private abortion services in Mexico City after Legalization.” Reproductive Health Matters, 18(36): 127–135.

Palermo T, Wilson K, Garcia S, Diaz-Olavarrieta C. (2010). “Public opinions on abortion, women’s roles, and reproductive health issues in Tlaxcala, Mexico.” Salud Publica de Mexico, 52(1): 52-60.

Palermo T, Peterman A. (2009). “Are female orphans at risk for early marriage, sexual debut and teen pregnancy?: Evidence from sub-Saharan Africa.” Studies in Family Planning, 40(2): 101-112.

Diaz-Olavarrieta C, Paz F, Abuabara K, Martinez Ayala HB, Kolstad K, Palermo T. (2007). “Abuse during pregnancy in Mexico City.” International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 97(1): 57-64.

*Student collaborator

Honors, Awards & Affiliations: 

  • Member: Population Association of America, 2006-Present
  • American Public Health Association, 2012-Present
  • NICHD Fellowship, Carolina Population Center, UNC-Chapel Hill (2004-2005)

Research Briefs:

Tip of the Iceberg: Reporting and Gender-based violence in developing countries, March 2015

Estimates and Determinants of Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, May 2011