Mellissa Withers

Mellissa Withers

Program Director (APRU Global Health Program)

Mellissa Withers received her Ph.D. in Community Health Sciences from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health in Los Angeles, USA in 2009 with an emphasis on medical anthropology. Her dissertation was related to fertility intentions in Bali, Indonesia, where she lived for 15 months. She also holds a Master’s in Health Sciences from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of International Health in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Her Master’s concentration was Health Systems Management. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. degree in Global Development.

She is currently an Associate Professor at the USC Institute for Global Health, where she teaches global health-related courses. She also works as an independent health research consultant. Her current research focuses on global reproductive health and women’s empowerment, including human trafficking, preventing unintended pregnancy, HIV/AIDS prevention among sex workers in Asia, and engaging male partners in family planning in sub-Saharan Africa. Other research interests include community participatory research; cultural competency; qualitative methodology; border, migrant, and refugee health; and how culture influences health-seeking behavior. Prior to coming to USC, she taught at UCLA in the Department of Anthropology and other universities throughout California.

She has traveled to more than 50 countries and has lived in Mexico, Costa Rica and Indonesia. She enjoys salsa dancing, kayaking and yoga.



Wu, CF, Woodward, A, Li, Y, Kan, H, Balasubramanian, R, Latif, MT, Sahani, M, Cheng, TJ, Chio, Cp, Taneepanichskul, N, Kim, H, Chan, CC, Yi, SM, Withers, M, Samet, J. (2017) Regulation of Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) in the Pacific Rim: Perspectives from the APRU Global Health Program. Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, in press.

Withers, M, Gonzalez, L, Karpouzas, G. (2017) Identification and Treatment Optimization of Co-morbid Depression in Rheumatoid Arthritis. Rheumatology and Therapy, in press.

Tuan, NT, Withers, M, Hajeebhoy, N, Frongillo, EA. (2016) Estimates of the quality of complementary feeding among Vietnamese infants aged 6−23 months varied by how commercial baby cereals were classified in 24-hour recalls. Maternal and Child Nutrition, e-published ahead of print, 2016 Feb 3.

Prata, N, Fraser, A. Huchko, MJ, Gipson, JD, Withers, M, Lewis, S, Ciaraldi, EJ, Upadhyay, UD.  (2016) Women’s Empowerment and Family Planning: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Biosocial Sciences, 10:1-31, 2017.

Samet J. and Withers, M. (2016) The APRU Global Health Program: Past and Future. Journal of Epidemiology, 26(4): 166-170.

Tuan, NT, Withers, M, Hajeebhoy, N, Frongillo, EA. (2016) Feeding of infant formula at birth is common and associated with subsequent breastfeeding behavior: a representative study from Vietnam. Journal of Nutrition. 146(10):2102-2108, Epub 2016 Sep 7.

Withers, M, Press, D, Wipfli, H, McCool, J, Chan, CC, Jimba, M, Tremewan, C, Samet, J. (2016) Training the next generation of global health experts: experiences and recommendations from Pacific Rim universities. Globalization and Health, 12(1): 34.

Tavrow, P, Bloom, B, Withers, M. (2016) Intimate partner violence screening practices in California after passage of the Affordable Care Act. Violence Against Women, e-published ahead of print.

Harrington, E, Dworkin, S, Withers, M and Newmann, S. (2016) Gendered power dynamics and women’s negotiation of family planning in the context of HIV: A qualitative study of couples in western Kenya. Culture, Health and Sexuality, 18(4):453-69.

Browner, C. and Withers, M. (2015) “Reproduction” Encyclopedia of Human Sexuality, Eds. Patricia Wheelan and Anne Bolin, Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, New Jersey.

Withers, M., Dworkin, S., Zakaras, J.M., Onono, M., Oyier, B, Cohen, C., Bukusi, E. and Newmann, S. (2015) “Women Now Wear Trousers”: Men’s Perceptions of Family Planning Use in the Context of Changing Gender Relations in Western Kenya. Culture, Health and Sexuality, 17(9): 1132-1146. 

Withers, M., Dworkin, S., Onono, M., Oyier, B, Grossman, D., Cohen, C., Bukusi, E. and Newmann, S. (2015) How should men’s involvement in family planning be increased?  A view of men’s perspectives in Nyanza Province, Kenya. Studies in Family Planning, 46(2): 201-215.

Maternowska, M.C., Mashu, A., Moyo, P., Withers, M., Chipato, T. (2014) Perceptions of Misoprostol among Providers and Women Seeking Post-Abortion Care in Zimbabwe, Reproductive Health Matters, Supp (43): 1-10.

Withers, M., Moran, R., Katz, P, Nicassio, P, Weisman, M, and Karpouzas, GA. (2014) Perspectives of Vulnerable US Hispanics with Rheumatoid Arthritis on Depression: Awareness, Barriers to Disclosure and Treatment Options, Arthritis Care and Research, 67(4):484-92.

Maternowska, C. Withers, M., and Brindis. C. (2014) Gender, masculinity and migration: Mexican men and reproductive health in the Californian context, Culture, Health and Sexuality, 16(8): 989-1002.

Upadhyay, U., Gipson, J., Withers, M., Fraser, A., Huchko, M.J., Lewis, S., and Prata, N. (2014) Women’s Empowerment and Reproductive Health: A Review of the Literature, Social Science and Medicine, 115: 111-20.

Withers, M., Dworkin, S., Harrington, E., Kwena, Z., Onono, M., Bukusi, E.B., Cohen, C.R., Newmann, S.J. (2013) Fertility Intentions among Kenyan Couples after HIV diagnosis: a qualitative investigation. Culture, Health and Sexuality, 15(10):1175-90.

Withers, M., Browner, C. and Aghaloo, T. (2013) Promoting Volunteerism in Global Health: Lessons from a Medical Mission in Northern Mexico. Journal of Community Health, 38(2):374-84.

Tavrow, P, Withers, M., Obbuyi, A. Omollo, V. and Wu, E. (2013) Rape myth attitudes in rural Kenya: Towards the development of a culturally-relevant attitude scale and “blame index. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 28(10): 2156-78.

Harrington, E., M. Withers, S. Dworkin, Z. Kwena, M. Onono, D. Grossman, E. Bukusi, C. R. Cohen, and S. J. Newmann. (2013) Covert Contraceptive Use and Relationship Power Dynamics among Couples in Nyanza Province, Kenya. Contraception, 88 (3): 448– 449.

Tavrow, P., Withers, M., and McMullen, K. (2012) Age matters: Differential impact of service quality on contraceptive uptake among post-abortion clients in Kenya. Culture, Health and Sexuality,14(8):849-62

Withers, M. and Browner, C. (2012) The changing context of fertility intentions: a longitudinal study from Bali, Indonesia Culture, Health and Sexuality, 14(3):347-60.  

Withers, M; Tavrow, P; Abe, D. (2012) Who meets their intentions to stop childbearing?  Results of a longitudinal study in rural Eastern Bali, Indonesia. Health Care for Women International, 33(9): 814-832.

Withers, M.; Tavrow, P.; Adinata, A. (2011) Do ambivalent women have an unmet need for family planning?  A longitudinal study from Bali, Indonesia. Women’s Health Issues, 21(6): 444-449.

Withers, M; Kano, M.; Pinatih, G.N. (2010) Desire for more children, contraceptive use and unmet need for family planning in a remote area of Bali, Indonesia. Journal of Biosocial Science. 42(4): 549-62.

Withers, M; Dornig, K; Morisky, D.E. (2007) Predictors of Sexual Health Policy in Sex Establishments in the Philippines. AIDS Care, 19(8); 1020-1025.



Withers, M. Modern Day Slavery. Psychology Today (blog). 2016-2017.

Withers. M. How the new anti-trafficking bill will help to curb the human trafficking epidemic.

Withers, M. Transportation Industry’s Tentative Steps to Fight Trafficking Must Go Further. Women’s Enews.

Withers, M. Defunding Planned Parenthood is a violation of women’s reproductive rights. The Hill.  2017.

Choudhury, S.M., Toller Erasquin, J., and Withers, M. (editors) Global Perspectives on Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Across the Lifespan. Springer Publishers, October 2017.

Withers, M., and McCool, J. (editors) Global Health Leadership: Case Studies from the Pacific Rim. Springer Publishers (Spring Briefs series), due out August 2018.

Browner, C. and Withers, M. (2015) “Reproduction” Encyclopedia of Human Sexuality, Eds. Patricia Wheelan and Anne Bolin, Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, New Jersey.

Withers, M, and Browner, C. “The role of Balinese culture in explaining inconsistencies between fertility intentions and reproductive outcomes.” Choudhury, SM, Toller Erasquin, J., and Withers, M. (editors) Global Perspectives on Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Across the Lifespan. Springer Publishers, due out June 2017.

Withers, M, “Traditional beliefs and practices during pregnancy, childbirth, and the post-partum period in Asian countries.” Choudhury, SM, Toller Erasquin, J., and Withers, M. (editors) Global Perspectives on Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Across the Lifespan. Springer Publishers, due out June 2017.

Withers, M. Kenyan men’s fears about family planning. Atlas of Science. 2015.

Withers, M. Violence Against Women- What it truly is. United Nations I Am Woman Campaign.  2015.