Oregon State University

Dr. Kenneth Maes

Kenneth Maes

Assistant Professor
Waldo 228
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Dr. Maes' Vitae


Ph.D.          Emory University, 2010

M.A.            Emory University, 2007                     

B.A.             University of California, Santa Barbara, 2002



Research Interests: Global Health and Development, Primary Health Care, Community Health Workers, Health Systems Strengthening, Food Insecurity, Water Insecurity, Mental Health, Maternal and Child Health, HIV/AIDS, Religion, Morality, and Ritual

Geographical Areas: Ethiopia, North America

For me, the lives and labors of health workers in contexts of poverty reveal important links between population health, politics, and society. I focus on health workers who engage in basic healthcare and health-promoting outreach activities at the community level, outside of clinics and hospitals. Community Health Workers or CHWs are thought to be uniquely capable of averting needless deaths and suffering through their intimate relationships with community members. But around the world, many community health workers live in poverty, are poorly compensated, and lack secure employment and support. According to the model of “partnership” that guides many global health initiatives, wealthy institutions provide drugs, medical technologies, and well-paid experts, while poor countries are expected to provide cheap or free labor. Government and non-governmental health organizations are often – but not always – unable or unwilling to provide payment and better job conditions for CHWs. 

A biocultural medical anthropologist, I am particularly interested in how helping community health workers achieve economic security may have positive effects on their own well-being and on their abilities to improve the health of their communities. I also study how global health institutions and local communities negotiate the quantity and quality of available CHW jobs, and on how CHWs, institutions, and communities build solidarity and shared goals.

Since 2006, my research has focused on CHWs in Ethiopia.  I first studied the lives and work of unpaid CHWs organized by NGOs to provide HIV/AIDS treatment support and home-based care in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.  I have since begun investigating the lives and work of paid and unpaid CHWs deployed by Ethiopia’s government to expand primary health care and to reduce maternal and infant mortality in rural Ethiopia.  Currently, I am Principal Investigator on a research project funded by the National Science Foundation. In collaboration with Ethiopian colleagues in Addis Ababa University’s School of Public Health, I am studying the well-being of Ethiopia’s Health Extension Workers and Women’s Development Army leaders, as well as their relationships with the communities they serve and with the government and non-governmental institutions that train, organize, and deploy them.

I have also been involved in other research projects in Ethiopia, focusing on food and water insecurity, mental health, polio eradication, and health systems strengthening. In the near future I hope to begin new projects examining CHWs and the challenges and opportunities they face here in Oregon.

Prior to joining OSU, I was a postdoctoral fellow at Brown University’s Population Studies & Training Center, an interdisciplinary demography center specializing in the study of population, health and development.


Recent research projects


The Women’s Development Army in rural Ethiopia: discourses and experiences of health worker status, motivation, and well-being.


Examining the effects of polio eradication efforts on routine immunization and primary health care in Ethiopia. 


Socio-demographic predictors and psycho-social outcomes of health care volunteering among youth in Jimma, Ethiopia.


Water insecurity and psychological distress among women in South Gondar, Ethiopia.


Food Insecurity, well-being and motivations among volunteer HIV/AIDS caregivers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Working with graduate students

I am very interested to work with graduate students who question the intersections between public health and anthropology, and the roles of community health workers in reducing health inequalities and poverty.  In recent years, graduate students working with me have been involved in projects in Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, and the United States, and have received research funding from the National Science Foundation’s Cultural Anthropology Program, and from the Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund (Oregon University System).


Public Anthropology

In 2013, I was interviewed by reporter Amy Costello for her “Tracking Charity” series, which is produced by Public Radio International’s program The World.  To listen and view the story, you can follow this link: http://www.pri.org/stories/2013-12-19/thousands-health-workers-senegal-receive-no-pay-fair


In 2009, the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences at Emory University granted me the opportunity to produce a short YouTube video that provides an overview of my research with AIDS care volunteers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. To view: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGxYVvVikB0




Forthcoming.  Maes, Kenneth.  The Labor and Lives of Community Health Workers: AIDS Care Volunteers in Urban Ethiopia.  Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.


Journal Articles and Book Chapters

In Press.  Maes, Kenneth C., S. Closser, and I. Kalofonos. “Listening to community health workers: How ethnographic research can inform positive relationships between CHWs, health institutions, and communities.” American Journal of Public Health.

In Press.  Closser, S., K. Cox, T. Parris, M. Landis, J. Justice, R. Gopinath, K. Maes, H. Banteyerga, et al.  In Press.  “The impact of polio eradication on routine immunization and primary health care: a mixed-methods study.” Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Forthcoming. Maes, Kenneth C.  Task-shifting in global health: Mental health implications for community health workers and volunteers. In Global Mental Health: An Anthropological Reader, ed. B. Kohrt and E. Mendenhall. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

2013. Maes, Kenneth C. and Ippolytos Kalofonos. “Becoming community health workers: Perspectives from Ethiopia and Mozambique.” Social Science & Medicine, 87: 52-59.

2012. Closser, S., A. Rosenthal, T. Parris, K. Maes, J. Justice, K. Cox, M. Luck, M. Landis, J. Grove, P. Tedoff, L. Venczel, P. Nsubuga, J. Kuzara, and V. Neergheen. "Methods for evaluating the impact of vertical programs on health systems: Protocol for a study on the impact of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative on strengthening routine immunization and primary health care." BMC Public Health 12:728.

2012. Maes, Kenneth C. “Volunteerism or labor exploitation? Harnessing and sustaining the volunteer spirit for AIDS treatment programs in urban Ethiopia.” Human Organization 71(1): 54-64.

2012. Stevenson, E.G.J., L. Greene, K.C. Maes, A. Ambelu, C. Hadley, and R. Rheingans. “Water insecurity in three dimensions: An anthropological perspective on water and women’s psychosocial distress in Ethiopia.” Social Science & Medicine 75: 392-400.

2012. Williams-Maes, C. and Kenneth C. Maes. "The Marvelous City and the Garden of Refuse." In Environmental Health Narratives: A Reader for Youth, eds. E. Mendenhall and A. Koon. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, pp. 315-322.

2011. Maes, Kenneth C. and Selamawit Shifferaw. “Cycles of poverty, food insecurity, and psychosocial stress among AIDS care volunteers in urban Ethiopia.” Annals of Anthropological Practice 35(1): 98-115, Thematic Volume – HIV/AIDS and Food Insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa: Challenges and Solutions.

2011. Maes, Kenneth C., S. Shifferaw, C. Hadley, and F. Tesfaye. "Volunteer Home-Based HIV/AIDS Care and Food Crisis in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Sustainability in the Face of Chronic Food Insecurity" Health Policy and Planning, 26(1): 43-52.

2011. Brown, P. J., G. Armelagos, and Kenneth C. Maes. "Humans in a World of Microbes: The Anthropology of Infectious Disease." In Companion to Medical Anthropology, ed. M. Singer and P. Erickson, 253-270. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

2010. Maes, Kenneth C., C. Hadley, F. Tesfaye, and S. Shifferaw. "Food Insecurity and Mental Health: Surprising Trends among Community Health Volunteers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia during the 2008 Food Crisis" Social Science & Medicine, 70(9): 1450-1457.

2010. Maes, Kenneth C. "Examining Health-Care Volunteerism in a Food- and Financially-Insecure World" Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 88(11): 867-869.

2010. Maes, K., B. Kohrt, and S. Closser. "Culture, Status and Context in Community Health Worker Pay: Pitfalls and Opportunities for Policy Research" Social Science & Medicine, 71(8): 1375-1378.

2009. Hadley, C. and Kenneth C. Maes. "A New Global Monitoring System for Food Insecurity" Lancet, 374(9697): 1223-1224.

2009. Maes, Kenneth C. and G. Okpattah. "The Accident." In Global Health Narratives: A Reader for Youth, ed. E. Mendenhall, pp. 169-175. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

2009. Maes, Kenneth C., C. Hadley, F. Tesfaye, S. Shifferaw, and Y. A. Tesfaye. "Food Insecurity among Volunteer AIDS Caregivers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was Highly Prevalent but Buffered from the 2008 Food Crisis." Journal of Nutrition, 139(9): 1758-1764.

2007. Turner, B., Kenneth C. Maes, J. Sweeney, and G. Armelagos. "Human Evolution, Diet and Nutrition: When Bodies Meet the Buffet." In Evolutionary Medicine and Health: New Perspectives, ed. W. R. Trevathan, E. O. Smith, and J. J. Mckenna, 55-71. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

2006. Armelagos, G. J. and Kenneth C. Maes. "Revisiting​ the​ Slavery​ Hypertension​ Hypothesis​." Transforming Anthropology, 14(1): 67-76.



Cross-Cultural Health & Healing

Peoples of the World: Africa

Human Adaptability (aka Biocultural Perspectives on Human Biology)


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