Joanna "Asia" Maselko, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Epidemiology
Dr. Maselko's research aims to identify causal mechanisms through which the social environment impacts the development of neuropsychiatric disorders. Much of this research focuses on the inter-generational transmission of risk, and how the family and socioeconomic environments shape socio-emotional and cognitive developmental trajectories. Recent work is exploring granpdarent-grandchild interactions and their potential impact on both child and grandparent health and well-being.
Dr. Maselko is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. She earned a BS in Biology from the University of Alaska Anchorage and an ScD in Social Epidemiology from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in 2004. Dr. Maselko also completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Psychiatric Epidemiology at Harvard in 2006.
Dr. Maselko's research is situated within the fields of social epidemiology and global mental health. Specifically, Dr. Maselko's current research examines how the social context influences developmental risk trajectories over the lifecourse. A key set of projects focus on elucidating the relationship between the family environment, maternal mental health, and child development. Dr. Maselko is the PI of the Bachpan (meaning ‘childhood’ in Urdu) Birth Cohort, located in Pakistan. The Bachpan Cohort follows a group of about 1,000 women and their children from pregnancy through school-age. Women who were depressed in pregnancy participated in a trial of a community-based perinatal depression intervention. In addition to evaluating the longer term impacts of the intervention, another central question of the project is to examine the impact of social context factors, such as family composition or socioeconomic status on both the woman's response to treatment and on child developmental trajectories. Related questions focus more specifically on the role of HPA-axis biomarkers in this intergenerational transmission as well as norms around gender and intimate partner violence.
Dr. Maselko's research interests on cross-generational factors in health also includes adolescent and aging populations with a focus on how families respond to changing social conditions over the lifecourse. For example, a project in Sri Lanka examines the determinants of cognitive function and depression among elderly and their caregivers in Sri Lanka. As part of this project, she adapted and applied the construct of generativity to intergenerational caregiving relationships in the Sri Lankan context. She is now expanding this line of inquiry to the US with a focus on grandparent-grandchild relationships.
In previous research, Dr. Maselko has studied the relationship between religious engagement and health at different stages of the lifecourse. She has analyzed data from the National Collaborative Perinatal Project (NCPP) to address methodological issues of selection and reverse causality (as people's religiosity may change because of illness), as well as heterogeneity in findings between genders and across health outcomes. She has found that selection explained part, but not all, of the observed association between religiosity and health.