Sera L. Young

Sera Young

Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences

Assistant Professor
Global Health and Nutrition

The Young Research Group for Maternal and Child Nutrition

Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
Ithaca, NY 14853

Office: 607.253.3573

Research Interest

The focus of Professor Young's work is on the reduction maternal and child undernutrition in sub-Saharan Africa. Methodologically, she draws on her training in medical anthropology (MA, University of Amsterdam) and international nutrition (PhD, Cornell) to take a biocultural approach to improving maternal and child nutrition and health. Her specific areas of interest include the impacts of food insecurity on maternal and child health, especially infant and young child feeding, animal source foods, the prevention of maternal-to-child transmission of HIV, evaluative ethnography, and pica, or non-food cravings. Currently, she has ongoing studies in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. She is the author of > 40 publications, and the book, “Craving Earth” for which she received the Margaret Mead Award.


  • PhD, 2003-2008 International Nutrition, Cornell University, Ithaca
  • MA, 2001-2002, Medical Anthropology, Highest Honors, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • 2000, Taasisi Institute of Kiswahili and Foreign Languages, Zanzibar, Tanzania
  • BA, 1995-1999, Anthropology, High Honors, Secondary Level Taching Certificate, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
  • International Baccalaureate, 1993-1995, United World College of the Atlantic, Wales, UK

Biography/Professional Experience

Previous Appointments

  • 2011-2015 Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Research Scientist
  • 2010-2011 University of California, San Francisco, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences,
           Reproductive Infectious Diseases Fellow
  • 2008-2011 University of California, Davis, CA, Department of Pediatrics, Assistant Researcher
  • 2008 University of California, Berkeley, CA, School of Public Health, Assistant Researcher


  • English
  • Dutch
  • French
  • Swahili

Field Research in

  • Kenya
  • Mozambique
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda

Professional Service

  • World Food Program: Inter-agency Task Team for Food, Nutrition, and HIV Member 2014 - Present
  • American Society for Nutrition: At Large Member of the Global Nutrition Executive Council 2014-2016
  • Graduate and Professional Education Executive Committee Member 2006-2008
  • Dannon Nutrition Leadership Institute: President 2015-2016; President-elect 2012-2015; Treasurer 2010-2012
  • Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition: Vice-President 2012-2014; National Meeting Program Chair 2010-2012


  1. Tuthill, E. L., McGrath, J.M., Graber, M. Cusson, R.M., Young, S. L. (in press) Breastfeeding Self-efficacy: A
    Critical Review of Available Instruments. Journal of Human Lactation, DOI: 10.1177/0890334415599533
  2. Young, S.L., Natamba, B,.** Luwedde, F., Nyafwono, D., Okia, B., Osterbauer, B., Natureeba, P., Johnson, L.,
    Michel, C., Zheng, A.,* Robine, M.,* Achan, J., Charlebois, E., Cohan, D., Havlir, D. (in press) ”I have remained
    strong because of that food": Acceptability and use of lipid-based nutrient supplements among pregnant HIVinfected
    Ugandan women receiving combination antiretroviral therapy. AIDS and Behavior, in press.
  3. Bartelink, I. H., Savic, R. M., Dorsey, G., Ruel, T., Gingrish, D., Scherpbier, H., Capparelli, E., Julien, V., Young,
    , Achan, J., Plenty, A., Charlebois, E., Kamya, M., Havlir, D., Aweeka, F. (2015) The Effect of Malnutrition on the
    Pharmacokinetics and Virologic Outcomes of Lopinavir Efavirenz and Nevirapine in Food Insecure HIV-Infected
    Children in Tororo, Uganda. Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, DOI 10.1097/INF.0000000000000603.
  4. Miao, D.,* Young, S.L., & Golden, C.D. (2015) A meta-analysis of pica and micronutrient status. American
    Journal of Human Biology, in press. DOI: 10.1002/ajhb.22598 (Cover article.)
  5. Lumish, R.A.,* Young, S.L., Lee, S., Cooper, E., Pressman, E., Guillet, R., O’Brien, K.O. (2014) Gestational Iron
    Deficiency is Associated with Pica Behaviors in Adolescents. Journal of Nutrition, doi: 10.3945/ jn.114.192070.
  6. Natamba, B. K.,** Achan, J., Arbach, A.,** Oyok, T. O., Ghosh, S., Mehta, S., Stoltzfus, R.J., Griffiths, J., Young,
    (2014). Reliability and validity of the center for epidemiologic studies-depression scale in screening for
    depression among HIV-infected and -uninfected pregnant women attending antenatal services in northern
    Uganda: a cross-sectional study. BMC Psychiatry, 14(1), 303. doi:10.1186/s12888-014-0303-y
  7. Natamba, B.,** Kilama, H., Arbach, A.,** Achan, J., Ghosh, S., Griffiths, J., & Young, S. L. (2014) Reliability and
    validity of an individually-focused food insecurity access scale for assessing perceived food access among
    pregnant Ugandan women of mixed HIV status. Public Health Nutrition, S1368980014001669.
  8. Lin, J.,* Temple, L.,* Trujillo, C., Mejia-Rodriguez, F., Goldman Rosas, L., Fernald, L., & Young, S. L. (2014). Pica
    during pregnancy among Mexican-born women: a formative study. Maternal and Child Nutrition, doi: 10.1111/ mcn.12120.
  9. Young, S. L., Plenty, A., Luwedde, F., Natamba, B.,** Natureeba, P., Achan, J., et al. (2014). Household food
    insecurity, maternal nutritional status, and infant feeding practices among HIV-infected Ugandan women
    receiving combination antiretroviral therapy. Maternal and Child Health, 18(9):2044-53. doi: 10.1007/ s10995-014-1450-y.
  10. Nagata, J. M.,** Cohen, C. R., Young, S. L., Wamuyu, C., Armes, M. N., Otieno, B. O., Leslie, H.H., Dangu, M.,
    Stewart, C., Bukusi, E.A., Weiser, S.D. (2014). Descriptive characteristics and health outcomes of the Food by
    Prescription nutrition supplementation program for adults living with HIV in Nyanza Province, Kenya. PLoS
    One, 9(3), e91403. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0091403.t003.
  11. Jones, A.D., Ngure, F.M., Pelto, G., Young, S.L. (2013) What are we assessing when we measure food security?:
    A compendium and review of current metrics. Advances in Nutrition. 4, 481-505, doi: 10.3945/ an.113.004119.
  12. Bartelink, I. H., Savic, R. M., Mwesigwa, J., Achan, J., Clark, T., Plenty, A., Charlebois, E., Kamya, M., Young,
    , Gandhi, M., Havlir, D., Cohan, D., Aweeka, F. (2013). Pharmacokinetics of lopinavir/ritonavir and efavirenz
    in food insecure HIV-infected pregnant and breastfeeding women in Tororo, Uganda. Journal of Clinical
    Pharmacology, doi:10.1002/jcph.167.
  13. Tuthill, E.,** McGrath, J., Young, S.L. Commonalities and differences in infant feeding attitudes and practices
    in the context of HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa: a Metasynthesis. (2013) AIDS Care. doi
  14. Young, S.L., Wheeler, A., McCoy, A., Weiser, S. (2013) A review of the role of food insecurity in adherence to
    care and treatment among adult and pediatric populations living with HIV and AIDS. AIDS and Behavior. doi:
  15. Seim, G.L.,* Ahn, C.I.,* Bodis, M.S., Luwedde, F., Miller, D., Tako, E., Glahn, R., Young, S.L. (2013)
    Bioavailability of iron in geophagic earths and clay minerals, and their effect on dietary iron absorption using an
    in vitro digestion/Caco-2 cell model. Food and Function. 4(8), 1263–1270. doi:10.1039/c3fo30380b
  16. Pebsworth, P., Seim, G.,* Huffman, M., Glahn, R., Tako, E., Young, S.L. (2013) Soil consumed by chacma
    baboons is low in bioavailable iron and high in clay. Journal of Chemical Ecology. 39(3), 447–449. doi:10.1007/ s10886-013-0258-3
  17. Young, S. L., Leshabari, S., Arkfeld, C.,* Singler, J., Chantry, C.J. et al. (2013) Barriers to and promoters of
    home-based breastmilk pasteurization: an ethnographic investigation. Breastfeeding Medicine. 8(3), 321–326. doi:
  18. Nagata, J. M.,** Magerenge, R. O., Young, S.L., Oguta, J. O., Weiser, S. D., & Cohen, C. R. (2012) Sociodemographic
    and health associations with BMI at the time of enrollment to HIV care in Nyanza Province, Kenya.
    AIDS Care. 24(6), 728–736. doi:10.1080/09540121.2011.630358
  19. Wilkinson, L.,* Sheng, X., & Young, S. L. (2012). Understanding infant and young child feeding challenges in
    China. China Health Review, 9–19.
  20. Golden, C. D.,* Rasolofoniaina, B. J. R., Benjamin, R., Young, S. L. (2012) Pica and amylophagy are common
    among Malagasy men, women and children. PLoS One. 7(10): e47129. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047129.


  1. Young, S.L. (2011) “Craving earth: Understanding pica” Columbia University Press.

Awards and Honors

  • 2013 Margaret Mead Award, American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology
  • 2009 Dissertation Award, Society for Medical Anthropology
  • 2009 Allan Rosenfield Scholar & New Investigator in Global Health, Global Health Council
  • 2003 Rudolf Virchow Award, Honorable Mention, American Anthropological Association
  • 2002 Christine Wilson Award, American Anthropological Association

Professional/Academic Affiliations

  • At Cornell: Member of the Graduate Fields of Nutrition, Anthropology, and Public Affairs
  • Faculty Fellow at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future
  • Faculty Affiliate of the Cornell Population Center