Joanna Maselko

Joanna "Asia" Maselko, ScD

Associate Professor
Department of Epidemiology
2105E McGavran-Greenberg Hall
CB# 7400
Chapel Hill, NC 27599


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 life course. 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 include adolescent and aging populations with a focus on how families respond to changing social conditions over the life course. For example, a project in Sri Lanka examines the determinants of cognitive function and depression among the 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.

Joanna Maselko in the Gillings News

Representative Courses

EPID 826: Introduction to Social Epidemiology

Research Activities

- Global mental health
- Social determinants of health
- Maternal depression and child socioemotional development

Key Publications

Effectiveness of a peer-delivered, longer-duration psychosocial intervention on maternal depression and child development at 3 years of age: Results and lessons from a cluster randomized trial in Pakistan. Maselko, J., Sikander, S., Turner, EL., Bates, LM., Ahmad, I., Atif, N., Baranov, V., Bhalotra, S., Bibi, A., Bibi, T., Bilal, S., Biroli, P., Chung, E., Gallis, JA., Hagaman, A., Jamil, A., LeMasters, K., O’Donnell, K., Scherer, E., Sharif, M., Waqas, A., Zaidi, A., Zulfiqar, S., and Rahman, A. (2020). Lancet Psychiatry, 7( ), 775-87.

Maternal depression in rural Pakistan: The protective associations with cultural postpartum practices. LeMasters, K., Andrabi, N., Zalla, L., Hagaman, AK., Chung EO., Gallis, JA., Turner, EL., Sikander, S., Maselko, J. (2020). BMC Public Health, 20(68).

Maternal depression, women’s empowerment, and parental investment: Evidence from a randomized controlled trial. Baranov V., Bhalotra S., Biroli P., Maselko J. (2020). American Economic Review, 110(3), 824-859.

A novel adaptation of the HOME Inventory for elders: The importance of the home environment across the lifecourse. Hale KL., Østbye T., Perera B., Bradley RH., Maselko J. (2019). International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health., 16( ), 2829.

Father involvement in the first year of life: Associations with maternal mental health and child development outcomes in rural Pakistan. Maselko, J., Hagaman, AK., Bates, LM., Bhalotra, S., Biroli, P., Gallis, JA., O’Donnell, K., Sikander, S., Turner, EL., Rahman, A. (2019). Social Science & Medicine, 237:112421( ),  .

The Relationship between responsive caregiving and child outcomes: Evidence from direct observations of mother-child dyads in Pakistan. Scherer E., Hagaman A., Chung E., Rahman A., O’Donnell K., Maselko J. (2019). BMC Public Health, 19(1), 252.

Socioeconomic status indicators and common mental disorders: Evidence from a study of prenatal depression in Pakistan. Maselko J., Bates LM., Bhalotra S., Gallis J., O’Donnell K., Sikander S., Turner E. (2018). SSM - Population Health, 4( ), 1-9.

Effect of an Early Perinatal Depression Intervention on Long-term Child Development Outcomes: follow-up of the Thinking Healthy Programme randomized controlled trial. Maselko J., Sikander S., Bhalotra S., Bangash O., Ganga N., Mukherjee S., Egger H., Franz L., Bibi A., Liaqat R., Kanwal M., Abbasi T., Noor M., Ameen N., Rahman A. (2015). Lancet Psychiatry, 2(7), 609-617.

The Contribution of Generative Leisure Activities to Cognitive Function among Sri Lankan Elderly. Maselko J., Sebranek M., Hodzic Mun M., Perera B., Ahs J., Østbye T. (2014). Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 62(9), 1707-13.

Care-giving expectations and challenges among elders and their adult children in Southern Sri Lanka. Watt MH., Perera B., Østbye T., Rajapakse H., Ranabahu S., Maselko J. (2013). Ageing and Society,  ( ), 1-21.


  • ScD, Social Epidemiology, Harvard University, 2004
  • SM, Health and Social Behavior, Harvard University, 2000
  • BS, Biological Sciences, University of Alaska-Anchorage, 1996