Meet our Health Scholars, Faculty Profiles, Grants

Meet our Health Scholars


Ohio State faculty members who study health and wellbeing investigate a wide range of outcomes – everything from fertility intentions among African women to the impact of rising rates of obesity on mortality trends in the United States. The one theme that is present throughout all the disparate strands of their research is the desire to use health as a lens to gain a better understanding of how social stratification processes work, whether these processes operate at the individual, family or neighborhood level.

For example, Assistant Professor Corinne Reczek is currently conducting a qualitative study among members of the LGBTQ community to examine how relationships with their parents impact their health and wellbeing during emerging adulthood, while Associate Professor Reanne Frank’s demographic research investigates the complicated ways in which race and immigrant status interact to produce health inequalities among Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.

By emphasizing how wellbeing is distributed unequally in our society, Ohio State sociology faculty strive to more fully explain how social conditions, such as those arising from where we work to where we go to school to where we live, directly influence physical and mental health outcomes in the United States as well as throughout the rest of the world.


Faculty Profiles


Kristi Williams, Professor

 Williams’ research focuses on the changing intersections of marriage and parenthood in the contemporary U.S. and their consequences for health and well-being across the life course. Her most recent work challenges assumptions underlying family policies that seek to promote marriage among single mothers by showing that, for many women, those who remain unpartnered after a nonmarital birth have better health outcomes at midlife than those who marry.

Last year, Williams was named editor of the highly regarded Journal of Marriage and Family. The journal is the flagship research journal of the National Council on Family Relations and is published by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.

The editorial office at Ohio State, led by Williams, will have full responsibility for the intellectual content and leadership of the journal, including managing the review process, developing author contributions, making all editorial decisions and communicating key research findings to the public. The editorial transition began this spring

Sarah Hayford, Associate Professor

Hayford’s research focuses on childbearing and reproductive health, primarily in the United States and in sub-Saharan Africa. She is interested in how women make plans about childbearing, who is able to carry out these plans and how these processes vary across disparate social contexts. Some of her long-term projects include a study of race-ethnic differences in unintended childbearing in the United States and an analysis of marriage and childbearing in a context of high HIV prevalence in Mozambique.

Kammi Schmeer, Associate Professor

As a sociologist and population health researcher, Schmeer aims to better understand the social determinants of health and disease across the life course.  She is particularly interested in the influence of families as important social institutions that affect individual health directly and serve as pathways through which larger social structures create health inequalities. Her most recent work, funded by NIH, is focused on biomarkers of stress and poor health in children in different family contexts in the U.S., Mexico and Nicaragua. She is currently working with biological anthropologists to design a study of family contexts, stress and health in mothers and children in Nicaragua.

John Casterline, Professor

 Casterline conducts research on reproductive health in developing countries, with a focus on unintended pregnancy. He has developed methods for estimating levels of unintended pregnancy from survey data, and has examined the determinants and consequences of unintended pregnancy.  A new project will investigate the complex of factors which lead to unintended pregnancy, with fieldwork planned for 2016 in Bangladesh, Kenya, Burkina Faso and Ghana.  Research about to be published documents levels and trends in birth-spacing, a reproductive variable known to affect maternal and child health.

Michael Vulo, Assistant Professor

 Vuolo’s health-related research focuses on substance use among young people. In particular, he studies the social contexts in which substance use takes place, including drug policy, subcultural participation, and intergenerational effects. This line of work has received funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse on topics such as tobacco control policy and prescription drug misuse.

Corinne Reczek, Associate Professor

The core question of Reczek's research asks: How and why do family relationships make us either happier and healthier or sick and stressed?  Reczek examines a variety of health outcomes, including health behaviors (e.g., smoking, drinking), mental health, and physical health (e.g., BMI) within parents-child relationships and romantic partnerships.

Christopher Browning, Professor

 Browning is the director of The Adolescent Health and Development in Context (AHDC) project, which focuses on the impact of multiple social contexts  — neighborhood, home, school and peers —  on risky behavior (including substance use and delinquency), and mental/physical health outcomes. Collecting data on a large sample of adolescents, ages 11-17 years, in Franklin County, this innovative project combines in-home surveys with a week of smartphone-collected GPS and real-time mini-survey data. For a subsample of participants, saliva and hair are also collected to analyze biological measures of stress. This research will develop our understanding of how the actual places youth go and the people with whom they interact on a daily basis influence their health and behavior. Several other sociology faculty contribute to the project, including Elizabeth Cooksey (co-investigator), Kammi Schmeer and Dana Haynie.

Hui Zheng, Associate Professor

 Zheng’s research focuses on mortality and its apparent causes, such as health, obesity and aging, from the integration of demographic, sociological, epidemiological and biological perspectives. His work to date has examined cohort evolution of biological aging, health disparities, social determinants of health, life course of obesity and medicalization. His ongoing and future work focuses on how socioeconomic status, health and biology interact, evolve over life course and transmit across generations.

Cynthia Colen, Associate Professor

Colen is a social demographer whose research intersects the fields of public health and sociology. Broadly defined, her empirical work examines the causes and consequences of racial disparities in health within the United States, with a particular emphasis on maternal and infant outcomes. She is interested in examining the intricate ways that socioeconomic status and race interact to produce health disparities, especially among middle-class African Americans. Her research is largely quantitative and highlights life course processes within a single generation as well as across multiple generations. She has published in Social Science and Medicine; the American Journal of Public Health; the American Journal of EpidemiologyMilbank Quarterly; the DuBois Review; and the Annual Review of Sociology.

Reanne Frank, Associate Professor

Frank’s health research is centered on population health inequalities, with a particular focus on immigrant health—how immigrant health compares to the health of the native-born and how it changes with time and across generations in the United States. Her research also addresses how to best conceptualize and measure race/ethnicity in health disparities research.

Sam Clark, Professor

The department is also excited to announce that Sam Clark will be joining us in Autumn 2016.  Clark’s research interests include the demography of Africa; demographic methods; mathematical modeling of population processes, with specific focus on individual-level models and statistical methods for quantifying uncertainty; the theory and practice of temporal databases as they relate to population data; and the ethics, policies and procedures necessary to archive, pool, share and analyze longitudinal population data generated by multiple institutions.




The Department of Sociology Health Scholars have received significant funding to perform cutting edge research on a variety of health-related topics. These include:

  • Sarah Hayford: Community Influences on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Africa (National Institute of Health); Distal Determinants of Disparities in Unintended Fertility (National Institute of Health/ National Institute of Child Health and Human Development); Family Migration Context and Early Life Outcomes (National Institute of Health/ National Instituteof Child Health and Human Development)
  • John Casterline: Institute for Population Research Infrastructure Award (National Institute of Health/ National Institute of Child Health and Human Development-supports Ohio State’s Institute for Population Research); Promoting CSD500 Use among Women in Established Relationships (National Institute of Health/ National Institute of Child Health and Human Development)
  • Corinne Reczek: Same-sex Family Structures and Child Health: The Role of Family Resources (National Institute of Health/ National Institute of Child Health and Human Development); Relationships and Health: Comparing Union Types (National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging)
  • Kammi Schmeer: Family Contexts, Physiological Stress, and Health in Children (National Institute for Child Health and Development, National Institute of Health)

Photo of several search faculty