Institute for Health Promotion & Disease Prevention Research (IPR), University of Southern California University of Southern California
Jennifer Unger, Ph.D.
Professor of Preventive Medicine

Phone: 3234428234
Location: 2001 N. Soto St., SSB 302P
Los Angeles, CA 90089


Tobacco Fotonovela English
Tobacco Fotonovela Spanish
About Dr. Unger
About Dr. Unger

Jennifer B. Unger, Ph.D. is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. Her research focuses on the psychological, social, and cultural influences on health-risk and health-protective behaviors, including the role of acculturation and cultural values on adolescent substance use, with the ultimate goal of developing improved prevention programs to reduce health disparities. She and her colleagues have conducted several longitudinal studies of family acculturation patterns and substance use among Hispanic adolescents in Los Angeles and Miami. Her research also has examined cultural influences on ceremonial and commercial tobacco use among American Indian adolescents, smoking prevention among Chinese adolescents, and cultural influences on menthol smoking among African American adults. She is interested in entertainment-education strategies for health education among low-literacy minority populations and has collaborated on the design and evaluation of fotonovelas and telenovelas about secondhand and thirdhand smoke exposure in multiunit housing; diabetes; asthma; and kidney transplantation. She is a co-investigator in the USC Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORs), where she and her colleagues are investigating the diffusion of messages about emerging tobacco products to vulnerable populations through social media. Previously, she was a co-investigator in the USC Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center (TTURC), which developed and evaluated culturally targeted smoking prevention programs for culturally diverse youth. Dr. Unger directs the Ph.D. program in Preventive Medicine / Health Behavior Research and teaches a predoctoral research methods course. She is a member of the NIH RPIA (Risk, Prevention, and Intervention in the Addictions) study section, a Deputy Editor for Nicotine & Tobacco Research, and an Associate Editor for Substance Use and Misuse, Journal of Addiction, and Tobacco Regulatory Science.

Dr. Unger’s Research Interests

Health disparities, psychosocial and cultural predictors of adolescent health-risk and health-protective behaviors

Future Research Interests

Stay tuned for more info....

Recent Publications

Arpawong TE, Sussman S, Milam JE, Unger JB, Land H, Sun P, Rohrbach LA. Post-traumatic growth, stressful life events, and relationships with substance use behaviors among alternative high school students: A prospective study. Psychol Health. 2015 Apr;30(4):475-94. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2014.979171. Epub 2014 Nov 14. PubMed PMID: 25346382; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4297231.

GuoQ, Unger JB, Palmer PH, Chou CP,Johnson CA. Therole of cognitive attributions for smoking in subsequent smoking progressionand regression among adolescents in China. Addict Behav. 2013Jan;38(1):1493-8. PubMed PMID: 23017586; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3493682

Selected Publications

Unger JB, Cabassa LJ, MolinaGB, Contreras S, Baron M. Evaluationof a fotonovela to increase depression knowledge and reduce stigma amongHispanic adults.J Immigr Minor Health. 2013 Apr;15(2):398-406. PubMed PMID: 22485012; PubMedCentral PMCID: PMC3602405.

UngerJB, Allen BA, Leonard E, Wenten M, CruzTB. Menthol andnon-menthol cigarette use among Black smokers in southern California, Nicotineand Tobacco Research, 12 (4): 398-407, 2010.

Professional History
Assistant through Full Professor
University of Southern California
1999 — pres
Education History
Behavioral Biology
Johns Hopkins
1987 — 1991
Preventive Medicine
University of Southern California
1991 — 1996
Courses Taught

Research Methods

Behavioral Epidemiology


Foundations of Health Behavior in Public Health

Advanced Research Methods

Ethics and Scientific Accountability

Theoretical Principles of Health Behavior


Fellow, American Academy of Health Behavior, 2006

American Public Health Association Jay S. Drotman Memorial Award, 2000

Psi Chi, National Honor Society for Psychology, 1990

National Cancer Institute predoctoral fellowship, 1995

Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health/Ortho Pharmaceutical scholar in women’s health, 1997

University of Southern California Southern California Studies Center Junior Faculty Award for Research on Southern California, 1998-1999

Mellon Mentoring Award

Institute for Health Promotion & Disease Prevention Research, University of Southern California • 2001 N Soto Street, 3rd Floor, MC 9239, Los Angeles, CA 90032 • (323) 442-8200