Jessica G Burke

  • Vice Dean, Professor
  • Faculty in Behavioral and Community Health Sciences

I am committed to an integrated public health program of conducting innovative research, educating the next generation of professionals and serving communities. The primary focus of my work is on the complex realities and context of women’s health, specifically the syndemic interactions of sexual & reproductive health, intimate partner violence, substance use and mental health. Over the past 20 years, I have developed a research agenda that focuses on various pieces of this puzzle among populations in multiple settings and I have successfully illustrated the strength of mixed methods for informing action-oriented research. I intentionally use a partnership approach to my work and enjoy strong collaborations with academic colleagues, graduate students and community partners.

My experience living in Thailand as a child, education and training in cultural anthropology, international health and social and behavioral sciences, and commitment to health equity provide a solid foundation for my approach to public health research, education and practice which is best summarized in the 2014 Methods in Community Health: Integrated and Engaged Approaches book (Springer Publishing) that I developed and co-edited.


1994 New York University, New York, NY, BA Cultural Anthropology
1998 Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, MHS International Health
2003 Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, PhD Social & Behavioral Sciences


I teach graduate level courses including Concept Mapping (BCHS 2610) and regularly work with students interested in conducting community health and mixed methods research and frequently serve on thesis and dissertation committees.

I developed and direct the University of Pittsburgh Certificate Program in Community Based Participatory Research and Practice. The certificate in Community-Based Participatory Research and Practice (CBPRP) includes courses in Community Health, Community Based Participatory Research, Community Engaged Research Methods and Community Leadership. It also includes a six-credit internship, matching students with a local community agency.

Community Health Research Methods

I’m passionate about using engaged, creative and systems-oriented methods to address social and environmental determinants of health and am particularly interested in methods that include visual components that facilitate dialogue and action.  Below I’ve included a few examples of this work.

In 2005, my colleagues and I introduced concept mapping as a participatory research method for public health researchers interested in generating hypotheses and developing theory. Since 2010, I have directed the Concept Mapping Institute located in the department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences (BHCS). Our Institute promotes the use of concept mapping within community health research by providing basic and advanced trainings and technical support.  

Collaborative Filmmaking is an embodied, visual and participatory research method in which participants are trained to create, analyze and screen films to generate a deeper understanding of a health topic. Sara Baumann (BCHS faculty) and I co-developed the method in 2017 and our work using the method illustrates that it is a particularly powerful for exploring nuances related to a sensitive health topic, and provides sensory details about relationships, spaces and practices that are not easily captured with traditional research methods. Importantly, the method also resulted in a series of powerful and authentic films that have been effectively used for educational and advocacy efforts.

Stina Mair (BCHS faculty) and I co-founded the Center for Social Dynamics and Community Health (CSDCH) in 2018 with the mission of applying systems science and mixed methods approaches to better understand the mechanisms underlying community health issues. Systems science methods (e.g., social network analysis, and agent-based modeling) and help us understand the connections between components and behaviors of systems.

Selected Publications

1. Introducing and applying innovative quantitative and qualitative research methods that embrace complexity and creativityto explore the systems of interconnected influences affecting health and wellbeing.My 2005 article was the first to introduce public health researchers to concept mapping as a participatory method for generating hypotheses and developing theory regarding complex issues. Since then, I have conducted concept mapping research with diverse and underserved populations ranging from minority families in Pittsburgh to adolescent girls in Nepal and addressing varied topics including intimate partner violence, child thriving and breast health. Recently, my PhD advisee completed her NHLBI F31-funded dissertation research using concept mapping to explore heart health experiences of rural Appalachian women in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

  • Burke JG, O'Campo P, Peak G, Gielen A, McDonnell K, Trochim W. An introduction to concept mapping as a participatory public health research methodology. Qualitative Health Research. 2005. Dec; 15(10):1392-410. PMID: 16263919
  • Burke JG, Thompson JR, Mabry PL, Mair CF. Introduction to the Theme Issue on Dynamics of Health Behavior: Revisiting Systems Science for Population Health. Health Educ Behav. 2020 Apr;47(2):185-190. doi: 10.1177/1090198119876239. Epub 2020 Feb 24.PMID: 3209065
  • Baumann S*, Lhaki P, &Burke J. Collaborative Filmmaking: A participatory, visual method. Qualitative Health Research. Qual Health Res. 2020 Jul 31:1049732320941826. doi: 10.1177/1049732320941826.

2. Engaging communities and stakeholders in the process of research and its translation. I am deeply committed to the translation of research findings into interventions and work collaboratively and in partnership with community members and organizations to inform the development of rigorous and relevant research and the dissemination of results. My work provides concrete examples of how to cultivate academic-community partnerships. For example, I was a founding member of the Allegheny County Breast Health Coalition (ACBC), an academic-community research partnerships to address breast cancer disparities in Allegheny County. Over the past decade, ACBC has utilized research methods including concept mapping and spatial analysis to better understand the key factors that need to be addressed in the region.

  • Burke JG, Jones J, Yonas M, Zur L, Virata M, Costlow M, Morton S, Miller E. (2013) PCOR, CER, CBPR: Alphabet soup or complementary fields of health research? Clinical and Translational Sciences Volume 6, Issue 6, pages 493–496, December. PMID: 24330697
  • Burke JG, Hess S, Hoffmann K, Guizzetti L, Loy E, Gielen A, Bailey M, Walnoha A, Barbee G, Yonas M. (2013) Translating community-based participatory research principles into practice. Prog Community Health Partnersh. Summer;7(2):115-22. PMID: 23793242 PMCID:PMC4138529
  • Burke JG, Lich KH, Neal JW, Meissner HI, Yonas M, Mabry PL. Enhancing dissemination and implementation research using systems science methods.Int J Behav Med. 2015 Jun;22(3):283-91. doi: 10.1007/s12529-014-9417-3. PubMed PMID: 24852184; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4363012.
  • Thompson JR, Burke JG.Increasing Community Participation in Public Health Research: Applications for Concept Mapping Methodology. Prog Community Health Partnersh. 2020;14(2):243-250. doi: 10.1353/cpr.2020.0025

3.Developing and evaluating tailored interventions to address contextual influences. My research on the interpersonal context women’s health lead to the development and evaluation of a stage-based WISH (Women’s Initiative for Safety and Health) intervention. More recently, I secured funding from DHHS to use a stakeholder engaged approach and concept mapping to develop and test a theoretical framework to empower and support those affected by relationship abuse.

  • Burke JG, Gielen AC, McDonnell KA, O’Campo P, Maman S. The process of ending abusive relationships: A qualitative exploration of the Transtheoretical Model. Violence Against Women. 2001. 7(10): 1144-1163.
  • Burke JG,Mahoney P, Gielen AC, McDonnell KA, O’Campo P. Intimate partner violence survivors: Moving towards defining appropriate stages of change Violence & Victims 2009 24(1):36-51.
  • Burke JG, O’Malley TL, Folb BL, Hagen CA, Rabinovich BA. Conceptual Factors that Support Safety Behaviors among Abuse Survivors: A Literature Review Partner Abuse. 2019. Vol 10 Issue 4, DOI: 10.1891/1946-6560.10.4.452
  • Thompson JR, Risser LR, Dunfee MN, Schoenberg NE, Burke JG. Place, Power, and Premature Mortality: A Rapid Scoping Review on the Health of Women in Appalachia. Am J Health Promot. 2021 Apr 28:8901171211011388. doi: 10.1177/08901171211011388.

4. Exploring and documenting the intersecting epidemics of substance use, HIV/AIDS, intimate partner violence and mental health. My Violence Against Women article was the first publication to examine the intersection of substance use, intimate partner violence and HIV status among women (NIMH 5RO1MH53821). Subsequently I used an integration of quantitative and qualitative methods to examine the interconnected epidemics among MSM (NIDA R03DA025952) and in the Northern Appalachian Region of Pennsylvania (NIDA 1R03DA043373-01).