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




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, gender equity, social policy, Africa, Latin America, US

Current Research Activities:

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. “Managing the Double Burden: Pregnancy and Labor-Intensive Time Use in Rural China, Mexico, and Tanzania 
Co-Investigators: Amber Peterman, ShuWen Ng, and I-Heng Lee 
Description: Labor intensive work, such as agricultural subsistence, is often a way of life for women in rural areas of developing countries. This type of work requires physical exertion and may need to be continued through pregnancy and breastfeeding periods, which may result in poor health outcomes for both mother and infant. Using longitudinal data from China, Mexico and Tanzania, we study the relationship of being pregnant or breastfeeding on women’s time allocation.

Recently Completed Projects:

1. “Estimates of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Population-based estimates and correlates.” 
Co-Investigators: Amber Peterman and Caryn Bredenkamp
Description: Despite the alleged magnitude of sexual violence in the DRC, research providing data-based estimates is scarce. We use data from a nationally representative data from women ages 15 to 49 from the 2007 DRC Demographic and Health Survey, in conjunction with official population estimates used by the Ministries of Planning and Health and analyze levels of sexual violence and perform multivariate logistic regressions to analyze correlates of rape and intimate partner sexual violence. Estimates demonstrate that the level of sexual violence is orders of magnitude higher than previously estimated.

2. “The impact of the Kenya CT-OVC Program on household spending.” 
Co-Investigators: Kenya CT-OVC Evaluation Team 
Cash transfers are now a major policy instrument in developing countries. The Kenya Cash Transfer Program for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CT-OVC) is the government’s flagship social protection program, reaching over 100,000 households and 230,000 OVC across the country as of mid-2010. The objective of the program is to provide regular cash transfers to families living with OVC to encourage fostering and retention of children and to promote their human capital development. We investigate whether the CT-OVC has changed the preferences of households in terms of their consumption behavior. We compare standard difference-in-differences program effects to ex-ante expected effects given baseline expenditure elasticities. As a result of the program, participating households had significantly higher expenditures than control households on health and significantly less spending on alcohol and tobacco. In further analyses, we find evidence that the program has induced significant changes in preferences for health, transportation and communication, and alcohol and tobacco.

Guest Blog:

Global study of survivors of gender-based violence confirms our worst fears

When the numbers don't add up: Researchers and media struggle with stats on sexualized violence

Select Publications:

Palermo T, Peterman A & Bleck J*. (2013). “Tip of the iceberg: Reporting and gender based violence in developing countries.”American Journal of Epidemiology (in press).

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. [Earlier version published as a UNICEF Eastern & Southern Africa Working Paper Series, Nairobi, Kenya].

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.

Honors, Awards & Affiliations:

  • Member: Population Association of America, 2006-Present
  • Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (2011-2012)
  • American Public Health Association (2008-2009, 2012)
  • Global Health Council (2006-2012)
  • Pre-doctoral Trainee, Carolina Population Center, UNC-Chapel Hill (2004-2009)
  • NICHD Fellowship, Carolina Population Center, UNC-Chapel Hill (2004-2005)

Links to research on Sexual Violence:

Sexual violence against women in the DRC: Population-based estimates and determinants.
Please click on the following attachments for more information.

Congo Research Brief
Congo Research Brief (French)
Rape Reporting During War
Sexual Violence Against Women Powerpoint