Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies
Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies

Deborah Parra-Medina

ProfessorPh.D., University of California, San Diego/San Diego State University

Professor and Institute Director
Deborah Parra-Medina



Community-based health promotion, underserved communities, participatory research methods, Latino health disparities, and chronic disease prevention



Deborah Parra-Medina, Ph.D., M.P.H., is professor of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, where she is inaugural director of the Latino Research Institute. Dr. Parra-Medina has substantial experience in health promotion, public health epidemiology, health disparities in chronic disease, and community-based interventions among under-served and minority populations. Over the past 20 years she as served as Principal Investigator for 17 grants funded for over $19 million and has published over 80 scientific articles, presented at many national, and international conferences and received awards for research, teaching and service. Dr. Parra-Medina was named Fellow by the American Academy of Health Behavior in 2016, she serves on the editorial board of several scholarly journals and in 2013 received the American Public Health Association Mayhew Derryberry Award for outstanding contributions to research in the behavioral sciences. Before joining the University of Texas at Austin in 2016, she was professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio and an associate professor at the University of South Carolina. She received her Master of Public Health from San Diego State University and her Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of California, San Diego.


Current Research: 


MAS 374 • Latina Sexuality And Health

40395 • Spring 2019
Meets MW 2:30PM-4:00PM CMA 5.190
CD (also listed as WGS 340)

This course provides an overview of Latinas’ health issues presented in the context of a woman’s life, beginning in childhood and moving through adolescence, reproductive years, and aging. The approach to Latinas' health is broad, taking into account economic, social, and human rights factors and particularly the importance of women’s capacities to have good health and manage their lives in the face of societal pressures and obstacles. Particular attention will be given to critical issues of Latinas' health such as: poverty; unequal access to education, food, and health care; caregiving; and violence. Such issues as maternal mortality, sexually transmitted diseases, teen-pregnancy, body image, gender-based violence, the effects of traditional practices and the effective solutions being forged to combat them. Central to the course materials and discussions will be consideration of how race, ethnicity, class, culture, and gender shape Latinas’ health outcomes. The course will provide a mixture of lecture, media viewing, in-class critical thinking assignments, and out-of-class readings. The class will be interactive. After a general overview the first week, each week will be devoted to a particular phase of a Latinas' life and/or a health issue related to that phase, with one session being introductory (occasionally involving guest resource people) and the other being primarily discussion based, with students leading parts of the discussions. A couple of texts will be required and a Course Reader (CR) will be available on the web (in Canvas). Additional materials may be posted on the class website or handed out in class.

READINGS (selected)

  • Connell R. Gender, “Health and Theory: conceptualizing the issue, in local and world perspective.” Soc Sci Med 2012;74(11):1675–83.
  • Davidson P, McGrath S, Meleis A, et al. “The health of women and girls determines the health and wellbeing of our modern world: A white paper from the International Council on Women’s Health Issues.” Health Care Women International 2012;32(August):870–886
  • Ann Zuvekas, Barbara L. Wells, Bonnie Lefkowitz. “Mexican American Infant Mortality Rate: Implications for Public Policy.” Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 2000;11(2) pp. 231-24
  • Velia Leybas-Amedia, Thomas Nuno, Francisco Garcia. “Effect of acculturation and income on Hispanic women's health.” Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 2005;16(4) pp. 128-141.

MAS 392 • Latinx Health Disparities

35734 • Spring 2018
Meets W 3:00PM-6:00PM GWB 1.138

This course will introduce students to the concept of health equity and will provide a broad overview of health disparities in the United States with a specific focus on Latinx populations. The course will explore key social determinants of health, including: socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, neighborhood environments, social relationships, and political economy. Mechanisms through which these factors are hypothesized to influence health, such as stress and access to health resources and constraints, will be discussed, as well as the ways in which these mechanisms can operate across the lifecourse. An overarching theme of the course will be how social factors that adversely affect health are inequitably distributed, contributing to marked health disparities. Students will gain a better understanding of research on health disparities and interventions to promote health equity through a combination of readings, lectures, reflection papers, in-class exercises, and research assignments.

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