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Rainier Masa, PhD, MSW

Lead Researcher

Rainier Masa’s research interests focus on the economic and social aspects of health in low-resource communities. He conducts research on the intersection of socioeconomic precarity, stigma, and health, particularly HIV prevention and treatment among vulnerable populations. Masa leads GSDI’s research on integrated health and economic strengthening that aims to tackle underlying social and economic determinants of adverse health outcomes in low-resource settings. His research combines formative evaluation, to increase understanding of the interaction of socioeconomic precarity and adverse health, and experimental and quasi-experimental methods, to identify and alter modifiable causal mechanisms that shape health behavior changes among individuals in resource-limited settings.

His current research focuses on the role of intersectional stigma in HIV prevention and treatment among young people. He is leading an NIH-funded study (R21 MD016356) understanding and remediating the role of intersectional stigma and resilience in HIV testing and PrEP use among young Latino sexual minority men. He also led a research study, funded by the UNC Center for AIDS Research (P30 AI050410), that examined the feasibility of an asset-based intervention, which combined social and emotional skills development and financial capability, for young people living with HIV in Zambia. Likewise, he has published extensively on social and economic determinants of HIV prevention and treatment among youth in low-resource communities, assets and positive youth development, and youth food security.

Masa’s approach to economic security as a health strategy is shaped by a theoretical framework that recognizes an equally important role of tangible and intangible resources or assets, in addition to knowledge and motivation, on health behavior change, particularly among vulnerable and low-income populations. He uses qualitative and quantitative methods to understand the social and economic determinants of health among youth experiencing multiple social and economic adversities. Masa teaches graduate-level courses on social welfare and poverty policies, asset development practice and policy, and research methods and program evaluation. His work has been published in various interdisciplinary and social work journals, including African Journal of AIDS Research, American Journal of Men’s Health, Children and Youth Services Review, Ecology of Food and Nutrition, Food and Nutrition Bulletin, Food Security, International Journal of Public Health, Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, Journal of Transport and Health, Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, Public Health Nutrition, Social Science Research, Social Work in Public Health, and Youth & Society.