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Faculty Profiles

Allison Ruark

Allison Ruark, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Applied Health Science

On Faculty since 2020


As an undergraduate at Williams College, I was fascinated by Africa and health, an enthusiastic double major in history and political science, and a less-than-stellar student in my pre-med courses. What a relief to discover that being a doctor wasn’t the only way to serve God and work towards health and justice in the world, and that there was an entire field called public health devoted to questions of why people are ill and what to do about it. I am passionate about people all over the world experiencing health, wholeness, and God’s shalom, and believe I am called to use the tools of public health to study and address poor health and disease risk.

I am a social epidemiologist who earned my Master’s at Oregon State University, was a research fellow at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, completed a Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (while a Harvey Fellow), and did post-doctoral studies at Brown University. I have also spent significant time outside of academia working as an independent consultant with non-governmental and faith-based organizations, particularly in Africa. My main areas of research and expertise are behavioral HIV prevention, gender-based violence, and the impact of couple and family relationships on health.

A proud Third Culture Kid, I spent my childhood in Saudi Arabia, my teenage years in Oregon, and my adulthood hopping coasts and continents, culminating in 7 years putting down roots in the countries of Eswatini and South Africa. I maintain an affiliation with the Ukwanda Centre for Rural Health at Stellenbosch University in South Africa and am involved in an ongoing study of couples living with HIV in Malawi. Home is wherever my husband Joel and two kids are, and it’s a perfect day when I can cook up something delicious for friends or family, get my hands dirty in the garden, and enjoy God’s beautiful creation.

Brown University Department of Medicine
NIH Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 2015-2017

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Ph.D., International Health, 2015

College of Public Health & Human Sciences, Oregon State University
M.S., Public Health, 2004

Williams College
B.A., History and Political Science, 2001

  • behavioral HIV prevention, HIV transmission in sub-Saharan Africa
  • couple relationship quality and impact of couple- and family-level factors on health
  • gender-based violence
  • family planning
  • qualitative and mixed-method research
  • ethnography and life-course approach
  • scale development and structural equation modeling
  • monitoring and evaluation
  • Technical Advisor to Center for Learning and Child Development Ghana (clcdghana.org)

Conroy A, Ruark A, McKenna S, Tan J, Darbes L, Hahn J, Mkandawire J. The unaddressed needs of HIV-affected couples who use alcohol in Malawi: Formative research on multilevel interventions. Poster presentation, AIDSImpact, London, UK, 29-31 July 2019.

Ruark A. Using qualitative and quantitative methods to investigate couple relationship functioning and links to HIV in Malawi, Swaziland, and Uganda: In support of a mixed-method, holistic approach to health research. Oral presentation, Ukwanda Research Forum, Worcester, South Africa, 19 July 2017.

Ruark A, Brewster-Lee D, Hembling J, Davis VR. Assessment of couple relationship quality and links to HIV prevention, treatment and care in rural Malawi. Oral presentation, International AIDS Conference, Durban, South Africa, 20 July 2016.

Ruark A. Meanings of romantic love among young Swazi adults and implications for HIV risk behaviors. Oral presentation, From AIDS Crisis to Opportunities, Mbabane, Eswatini, 12-14 July 2016.

Ruark A. Quality and uncertainty in qualitative research. Seminar given to PopART (HPTN 071) Qualitative Cohort. Tygerberg, South Africa, 22 April 2016.

Ruark A. A life-course perspective on HIV risk among young Swazi adults. 2015. Oral presentation, South African AIDS Conference, Durban, South Africa, 9-12 June 2015.



Green EC, Ruark AH. 2011. AIDS, Behavior, and Culture: Understanding Evidence-Based Prevention. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

Peer-reviewed articles

Conroy AC, Ruark A, Tan JY. 2019. Re-conceptualising gender and power relations for sexual and reproductive health: contrasting narratives of tradition, unity, and rights. Culture, Health & Sexuality. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2019.1666428

Ruark A, Kishoyian J, Bormet M, Huber D. 2019. Increasing family planning access in Kenya through engagement of faith-based health facilities, religious leaders, and community health volunteers. Global Health: Science and Practice, 7(3): 478-490. doi: 10.9745/GHSP-D-19-00107

Ruark A, Green EC, Nunn A, Kennedy C, Adams A, Dlamini-Simelane T, Surkan P. 2019. Navigating intimate sexual partnerships in an era of HIV: Dimensions of couple relationship quality and satisfaction among adults in Eswatini and linkages to HIV risk. SAHARA-J: Journal of Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS, 16(1): 10-24. doi: 10.1080/17290376.2019.1604254. PMCID: PMC6484492

Ruark A, Kajubi P, Ruteikara S, Green EC, Hearst N. 2018. Couple relationship functioning as a source or mitigator of HIV risk: Associations between relationship quality and sexual risk behavior in peri‐urban Uganda. AIDS and Behavior, 22: 1273-1287. PMCID: PMC5878978

Ruark A, Chase R, Hembling J, Davis VR, Perrin PC, Brewster-Lee D. 2017. Measuring couple relationship quality in a rural African population: Validation of a Couple Functionality Assessment Tool in Malawi. PLoS ONE, 12(11): e0188561. PMCID: PMC5708731

Ruark A, Stern E, Dlamini-Simelane T, Kakuze MF. 2017. Love matters: Exploring conceptions of love in Rwanda and Swaziland and relationship to HIV and intimate partner violence. African Journal of AIDS Research, 16(4): 271-282. PMCID: PMC5907914

Ruark A, Fielding-Miller R. 2016. Using qualitative methods to validate and contextualize quantitative findings: A case study of research on sexual behavior and gender-based violence among young Swazi women. Global Health: Science and Practice, 4(3): 373-383. PMCID: PMC5042694

Ruark A, Kennedy C, Mazibuko N, Dlamini L, Nunn A, Green EC, Surkan PJ. 2016. From first love to marriage and maturity: A life-course perspective on HIV risk among young Swazi adults. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 18(7): 812-825. PMCID: PMC4877271

Ruark A, Dlamini L, Mazibuko N, Green EC, Kennedy C, Nunn A, Flanigan T, Surkan PJ. 2014. Love, lust, and the emotional context of concurrent sexual partnerships among young Swazi adults. African Journal of AIDS Research, 13(2): 133-143. PMCID: PMC4201849

Green EC, Kajubi P, Ruark A, Kamya S, D'Errico NC, Hearst N. 2013. The need to reemphasize behavior change for HIV prevention in Uganda: a qualitative study. Studies in Family Planning, 44(1): 25-43.

Selected non-peer reviewed publications

Ruark A. 2020. Development Food Security Activity and Feed the Future Ethiopia Livelihoods for Resilience - Oromia Joint Assessment on Gender-Based Violence (GBV), FoodInsecurity, and Effective GBV Response. Catholic Relief Services Ethiopia and USAID. 

Ruark A, Brewster-Lee D, Hembling J, Rhoe V. 2015. User Guide for Couple Functionality Assessment Tool (CFAT). Catholic Relief Services.

Hearst N, Ruark A, Fraser N, Jackson H. 2013. HIV Prevention in Generalized Epidemics - A Review of HIV Prevention Evidence and of Strategies in 12 African Countries. World Bank and UNFPA (East and Southern Africa Regional Office).

Ruark AH, Nzima M, Görgens M, Ghys P, Mahy M, Kasedde S, Jackson H, Wilson D. 2009. Monitoring & Evaluation for Multiple and Concurrent Partnerships (MCP) Programmes. UNAIDS and World Bank Global HIV/AIDS Program.

Green EC, Ruark AHAIDS and the churches: Getting the story right. First Things, April 2008.