Associate Professor - Graduate Program Director, Anthropology

Office: 541-737-7870

Waldo Hall

Waldo Hall 228

2250 SW Jefferson Way

2250 SW Jefferson Way
Corvallis, OR 97331
Ph.D. Emory University, 2010
B.A. UC Santa Barbara, 2002
Additional Information: 

Working with students

I'm interested to work with students who question the determinants of health inequity, with a focus on the roles and experiences of community health workers in pursuing health equity. Undergraduate and graduate students working with me have pursued a variety of projects involving qualitative and quantitative methods in diverse geographical contexts. I've served on the committees of numerous anthropology (MA, MS, PhD), public health (MPH), and engineering (MS) graduate students.

I'm interested to work with diverse students who have traditionally faced social and economic barriers to achieving college degrees in the US. 

In recent years, students working with me have received financial support from the National Science Foundation’s Cultural Anthropology Program, the Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund, the OSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women, the OSU URSA Engage Program, the OSU Prestigious Diversity Fellowship, and the OSU Provost Fellowship. I am committed to assisting students in accessing financial support for their research and degrees.

Oregon State University provides a variety of resources to support undocumented and DACAmented students.





2017.  Maes, Kenneth.  The Lives of Community Health Workers: Local Labor and Global Health in Urban EthiopiaRoutledge.

Journal Issues

2015. Maes, Kenneth.  Community Health Workers and Social Change: Global and Local Perspectives. Annals of Anthropological Practice 39(1).

Selected Articles

2022    Wiggins, N., K. Maes, L. Rodriguez Avila, K. Rodela, and E. Kieffer. Aligning research practices with health promotion values: Ethical considerations from the Community Health Worker Common Indicators Project. In Global Handbook of Health Promotion Research, Vol. 1.

2021    Wiggins, N., K. Maes, G. Palmisano, L. Rodriguez Avila, K. Rodela, and E. Kieffer. "A Community Participatory Approach to Identify Common Evaluation Indicators for Community Health Worker Practice." Progress in Community Health Partnerships.

2021    Rodela, K., N. Wiggins, K. Maes, T. Campos-Dominguez, V. Adewumi, P. Jewel, S. Mayfield-Johnson. The Community Health Worker Common Indicators Project: Engaging CHWs in measurement to sustain the profession. Frontiers in Public Health.

2020    George, R., R. Gunn, N. Wiggins, R. Rowland, M.M. Davis, K. Maes, A. Kuzma, and A.J. McConnell. "Early Lessons and Strategies from Statewide Efforts to Integrate Community Health Workers into Medicaid." Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved.

2020    Tesfaye, Y., K. Maes, R. Abesha, S. Young, J.S. Snyder, A. Gebremariam, and M.C. Freeman. "How Do Rural Ethiopians Rate the Severity of Water Insecurity Scale Items? Implications for Water Insecurity Measurement and Interventions." Human Organization.

2019    Maes, K., S. Closser, Y. Tesfaye, and R. Abesha. "Psychosocial distress among unpaid community health workers in rural Ethiopia: Comparing leaders in Ethiopia's Women's Development Army to their peers." Social Science & Medicine.

2018    Maes, K., S Closser, Y. Tesfaye, Y. Gilbert, and R. Abesha. "Volunteers in Ethiopia's Womens' Development Army are more deprived and distress than their peers: cross-sectional survey data from rural Ethiopia." BMC Public Health.

2017    Closser, S, A. Rosenthal, J. Justice, K. Maes, M. Sultan, S. Banerji, H. Banteyerga, R. Gopinath, P. Omidian, and L. Nyirazinyoye. “Per Diems in Polio Eradication: Perspectives from Community Health Workers and Officials.” American Journal of Public Health.

2014    Maes, K., S. Closser, and I. Kalofonos. “Listening to community health workers: How ethnographic research can inform positive relationships between CHWs, health institutions, and communities.” American Journal of Public Health.

2013    Maes, K. and Ippolytos Kalofonos. “Becoming community health workers: Perspectives from Ethiopia and Mozambique.” Social Science & Medicine.

2012    Maes, K. “Volunteerism or labor exploitation? Harnessing and sustaining the volunteer spirit for AIDS treatment programs in urban Ethiopia.” Human Organization.

2012    Stevenson, E.G.J., L. Greene, K. Maes, A. Ambelu, Y. Tesfaye, C. Hadley, and R. Rheingans.  “Water insecurity in three dimensions: An anthropological perspective on water and women’s psychosocial distress in Ethiopia.” Social Science & Medicine.

2010    Maes, K., C. Hadley, F. Tesfaye, and S. Shifferaw. "Food Insecurity and Mental Health: Surprising Trends among Community Health Volunteers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia during the 2008 Food Crisis." Social Science & Medicine.

2010    Maes, K. "Examining Health-Care Volunteerism in a Food- and Financially-Insecure World." Bulletin of the World Health Organization.


For a complete list of publications, see my Google Scholar page.


Courses Taught

Cross-Cultural Health & Healing (ANTH 574)

Anthropology and Global Health (ANTH 374)

Peoples of the World: Africa (ANTH 315)

Human Adaptability (ANTH 442/542)

Neuroanthropology (ANTH 461/561)

Nutritional Anthropology (ANTH 444/544)

Human Osteology Laboratory (ANTH 443/543)

Curriculum Vitae: 

Profile Field Tabs


I am a faculty member of the Anthropology program within the School of Language, Culture & Society. I am also an adjunct faculty member in Global Health, Public Policy, and Humanitarian Engineering at Oregon State. Prior to joining OSU, I was a postdoctoral fellow at Brown University’s Population Studies & Training Center, an interdisciplinary center specializing in the study of demography, health and development.

To learn more about my current work in the U.S., check out this profile.

To learn more about my earlier work in Ethiopia, read this review of my recent book, The Lives of Community Health Workers.


Recent projects


The CHW Common Indicators Project: Developing common metrics for evaluating community health worker programs in the U.S.


The Women’s Development Army in rural Ethiopia: discourses and experiences of health worker status, motivation, and well-being.


Water insecurity and psychological distress among women in Amhara, Ethiopia.


Examining the effects of polio eradication efforts on routine immunization and primary health care in Ethiopia. 


Food Insecurity, well-being and motivations among volunteer HIV/AIDS caregivers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


Research Interests: 

Health Equity, Global Health, Community Health Workers, Health Systems, Food Insecurity, Water Insecurity, Mental Health, Maternal and Child Health, Religion, Morality, and Ritual

Geographical Areas: 

United States, Ethiopia

As an applied anthropologist, I participate in a broad coalition of allies focused on achieving health equity.

As a biocultural medical anthropologist, I'm primarily interested in the determinants and outcomes of the massive lack of effective health workers in contexts of poverty and marginalization.

My colleagues and I are particularly passionate about community health workers or CHWs: people who provide health care within their own marginalized communities, and organize those communities to work towards health equity. CHWs, because of their intimate relationships with community members, are uniquely capable of improving health and reducing suffering in vulnerable populations. But around the world, many community health workers face insecure employment and are paid at levels that keep them in poverty. I focus on answering a range of questions through a mix of ethnography, survey, and other methodologies:

  • How do CHWs bring about impacts on population health
    • at the individual level (helping people get well)?
    • at the structural level (organizing communities to change and resist harmful policies and practices)?
  • Why are community health workers suffering from forms of burnout and distress?
  • How do CHWs and allies organize, build coalitions, and conduct research and evaluation?
  • How do big institutions -- governments, NGOs, think tanks, donors, and foundations -- influence the quantity and quality of available community health worker jobs?


My collaborators and I use ethnographic methods to forefront the voices of CHWs as they narrate their emotional and social labor, including their work to convince employers and other health system actors to change policies that stifle their power and effectiveness.  We aim to document the ways in which CHWs build relationships with stigmatized people, reconcile family and community disputes, confront death, prevent violence, challenge forms of discrimination, and influence policy makers. This kind of care work is crucial to peoples' wellbeing and massively undervalued within modern health systems.

We also use a mix of methods to illuminate the forms of distress and deprivation that CHWs experience. This aspect of our work has shown that large numbers of CHWs face chronically insecure access to basic resources including land, food, and water, which generate forms of psychological suffering that relatively well paid and empowered health workers do not have to face.

Another area of collaborative research in which I’m involved targets the daily lack of access to water experienced by people around the world. My colleagues and I are interested in understanding the political, cultural and ecological determinants of water insecurity, and demonstrating the multiple negative impacts of water insecurity on individual and social wellbeing. My former doctoral student Dr. Yihenew Tesfaye and I recently teamed up with a diverse array of colleagues to develop and apply measures of household water insecurity across the globe.

Affiliated with: 
Sch Lang, Culture & Soc
OSU Main Campus
Research/Career Interests: 

Affiliated MPP Faculty

Policy Areas: Global health inequalities, primary health care, labor, food and water insecurity, mental health

PhD: Emory University

MPP Faculty