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Associate Professor
Svea Closser

Departmental Affiliations

Social and Behavioral Interventions

Center & Institute Affiliations

Svea Closser, PhD, MPH, studies the social relations and political dynamics that shape primary health care.

Contact Info

615 N. Wolfe Street, Room E5545

Research Interests

medical anthropology; ethnographic methods; comparative ethnography; health systems; Primary Health Care; community health workers; disease eradication; vaccination; polio; COVID; vaccine hesitancy; human resources for health; Pakistan; India; Nepal; Ethiopia; Baltimore
Experiences & Accomplishments
Emory University
Emory University
Pomona College
I am a medical anthropologist, and I use ethnographic methods to explore the complexities of public health policymaking and implementation.

Areas of particular interest include:

• The experiences of frontline health staff working in challenging environments

• Strategies for building robust systems of Primary Health Care

• How health systems factors influence vaccine hesitancy

• The culture and politics of disease eradication programs
Honors & Awards
2018-2020 Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Fellowship, India

2010 Norman L. and Roselea J. Goldberg Prize for the best book project in the area of medicine, Vanderbilt University Press
Select Publications
My books include Chasing Polio in Pakistan (Vanderbilt University Press, 2010) and the textbook-readers Understanding and Applying Medical Anthropology, 3rd ed (Routledge, 2016, with Peter Brown) and Foundations of Global Health (Oxford, 2018, also with Peter Brown). Selected journal publications from the last five years are listed below.
  • Closser, Svea, Marium Sultan, Roosa Tikkanen, Shalini Singh, Arman Majidulla, Kenneth Maes, Sue Gerber, Anat Rosenthal, Daniel Palazuelos, Yihenew Tesfaye, Erin Finley, Ann Keeling, and Judith Justice. 2023. “Breaking the Silence on Gendered Harassment and Assault of Community Health Workers: An Analysis of Ethnographic Studies.” BMJ Global Health 8:e011749. Open access:
  • Closser, Svea, Emily Mendenhall, Peter Brown, Rachel Neill, and Judith Justice. 2022. “The Anthropology of Health Systems: A History and Review.” Social Science and Medicine 300: 114314. Open access version:
  • Closser, Svea and Surendra Singh Shekhawat. 2022. “The Family Politics of ASHA and Anganwadi Work in Rural Rajasthan: Gender and Labor in CHW Programs.” Global Public Health 17(9): 1973-1985. Open access:
  • Closser, Svea. 2020. "The Corruption Game: Health Systems, International Agencies, and the State in South Asia." Medical Anthropology Quarterly 34(2): 268-285. Open access version:
  • Closser, Svea, Kenneth Maes, Erick Gong, Neha Sharma*, Yihenew Tesfaye, Roza Abesha, Mikayla Hyman*, Natalie Meyer, and Jeffrey Carpenter. 2020. “Political Connections and Psychosocial Wellbeing among Women’s Development Army leaders in Rural Amhara, Ethiopia: Towards a Holistic Understanding of Community Health Workers’ Socioeconomic Status.” Social Science and Medicine 226: 11373. Open access version:
The ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) in Social Context
Health Volunteers in Rural Ethiopia
Synthesis and Translation of Research and Innovations from Polio Eradication (STRIPE)