John  Blevins Author of Evaluating Organization Development

John Blevins

Associate Research Professor
Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health

My research examines religion as a social force that impacts health and development programs. I do not assume that religion and public health always align, recognizing the tension often at play. Conversely, I do not assume that public health programs always contribute to the health of everyone in the society they purport to help and argue that critical perspectives commonly employed in religious and cultural studies can offer important correctives to health and development research and practice.


I am trained in religious studies with a focus in cultural and sexuality studies.  For over a decade, I have served on the faculty in the Hubert Department of Global Health at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University (USA), where much of my work has focused on global HIV and sexual and reproductive health.  There are very few researchers in the field of public health with an academic background in religious studies.  This provides me with a unique perspective for thinking about public health practice, a perspective reflected in my research and writing.

In addition to my primary appointment in public health, I hold a secondary faculty appointment in the Graduate Division of Religion in the Laney Graduate School and often teach students enrolled in the Candler School of Theology at Emory.


    Doctor of Theology; Emory Univ.; Atlanta, GA (USA); 2005
    Master of Divinity; Duke Univ.; Durham, NC (USA); 1992
    Bachelor of Arts; Furman Univ.; Greenville, SC (USA); 1989

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    Historically, much of my research has focused on global HIV, sexual and reproductive health, and LGBT health in the context of religion. Currently, I am working on a multi-country project that is seeking to identify the causes of childhood death more definitively so that smarter programs and policies can be implemented to lower the numbers of children who die prematurely.

    I find the critical perspectives commonly employed in religious studies to be useful correctives to the overconfidence (and occasional arrogance) employed in public health research and practice. I find that researchers and practitioners in the field of public health often endeavor to demonstrate respect for the religious and cultural beliefs of the people whom they meet when carrying out their work; at the same time, many of my colleagues in the field rarely examine (much less rigorously interrogate) their own assumptions and values to ask what cultural beliefs and priorities impact their own work as they go about implementing a public health intervention in various global contexts.



Featured Title
 Featured Title - Religion's Role in America's International Health Policy - Blevins - 1st Edition book cover


Development in Practice

The percentage of HIV prevention and treatment services in Kenya provided by faith-based providers

Published: Jul 21, 2018 by Development in Practice
Authors: Blevins, John; Kiser, Mimi; Lemon, Emily; Kone, Ahoua
Subjects: Health and Social Care, Religion

This article reports on a secondary analysis of health service data in Kenya to determine the percentage of HIV services provided by faith-based health providers. It then discusses the contributions of faith-based providers in light of these data, identifying opportunities and challenges involved in efforts to ensure that the resources of the faith-based sector are maximized.


Religion, a social determinant of mortality? A 10-year follow-up of the Health and Retirement Study

Published: Dec 20, 2017 by PLOS One
Authors: Idler, Ellen; Hogue, Carol; Blevins, John; Kiser, Mimi
Subjects: Health and Social Care, Religion

We investigate a set of social and economic determinants along with measures of religious participation as predictors of adult mortality. Respondents (N = 18370) were interviewed in 2004 and followed to 2014. Exposure variables were religious attendance, importance, and affiliation. Other determinants of health included gender, race, education, household income, and net worth at baseline. Religious participation is multi-faceted, showing both lower and higher hazards of mortality in this sample.

Review of Faith and International Affairs

Reflections on HIV-Related Experiences of Two Global Funding Mechanisms Supporting Faith-Based Providers

Published: Jul 09, 2016 by Review of Faith and International Affairs
Authors: Blevins, John; Benn, Christoph; Thurman, Sandra
Subjects: Health and Social Care, Religion, Economics, Finance, Business & Industry

Donors’ responses to the global HIV pandemic over 20 years offer an excellent case study for examining the complex issue of health financing and its effects on faith-based organizations. In this essay we briefly analyze the shifting funding structures of PEPFAR and The Global Fund over time, examine the influence of these structures on FBOs, describe current efforts by both programs) to build partnerships with FBOs, and suggest issues that will impact future funding levels and priorities.

Brown Journal of World Affairs

Are Faith-Based Organizations Assets or Hindrances for Adolescents Living with HIV? They Are Both

Published: Jun 01, 2016 by Brown Journal of World Affairs
Authors: Blevins, John
Subjects: Adolescent Studies, Health and Social Care, Religion

This paper examines the public health, sociological, political, and theological issues at play when faith-based organizations (FBOs) provide HIV prevention, treatment, and support services to adolescents. Through a case study in Nairobi, the paper provides a background on FBO responses to HIV; a description of the particular influence of religion on HIV prevention and sexual health programs for adolescents living with HIV; and a discussion of findings of workshops held with these adolescents.

Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Roundtable on LGBTIQ Persons in Africa Different Ways of Doing Violence: Sexuality, Religion, and Public Health in the Lives of Same-Gender-Loving Men in Kenya

Published: Sep 23, 2015 by Journal of the American Academy of Religion
Authors: Blevins, John; Irungu, Peter
Subjects: Health and Social Care, Religion, Gender & Sexuality

The article argues that religious condemnation of homosexuality is not merely predicated on traditional religious teachings but has arisen in response to suspicion of Western economic and development programs that have not delivered on their promises; in such a context, an appeal to acceptance of homosexuality from a human rights framework can actually increase suspicion. As an alternative, the article argues that liberation theology can help move the debate beyond this impasse.

Community Development

Engaging community change: the critical role of values in asset mapping

Published: Jul 22, 2015 by Community Development
Authors: Jakes, Susan; Hardison-Moody, Annie; Bowen, Sarah; Blevins, John;
Subjects: Health and Social Care

The authors highlight the results of community asset mapping workshops and show how they demonstrate participants’ values. This article argues that understanding why organizations are named as exemplary allows community members and leaders to connect assets in ways that are rooted in community values and the realities of existing community and social structures.

Theology and Sexuality

When Sodomy Leads to Martyrdom: Sex, Religion, and Politics in Historical and Contemporary Contexts in Uganda and East Africa

Published: Apr 01, 2011 by Theology and Sexuality
Authors: Blevins, John
Subjects: Religion, Gender & Sexuality

This article examines the shifting interpretations of homosexuality in east Africa in light of the Baganda martyrs. The story of the martyrs has been used to support a broad spectrum of political, cultural, and religious claims. By examining the event in both historical and contemporary contexts, this paper identifies broader fault lines that shoot through the phenomenon of homosexuality in relation to Christianity, Islam, colonial power, and post-colonial politics in east Africa.

Practical Matters

Something to Prove?: Pastoral Theology and Practice in the Context of Evidence-Based Outcomes

Published: Mar 01, 2011 by Practical Matters
Authors: Bleins, John; Toler; Elizabeth
Subjects: Religion, Research Methods

This paper discusses the tensions between the demands for evidence-based practice and the complexities of human behaviors that cannot be controlled through such practices. The paper examines these issues in light of religious practice.

Journal of Pastoral Theology

Cultivating a Critical Attitude in Pastoral Theology: A Response to David Hogue

Published: Aug 01, 2010 by Journal of Pastoral Theology
Authors: Blevins, John
Subjects: Neuropsychology, Religion

This is respondent paper following a keynote lecture at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Society for Pastoral Theology

Journal of Religion and Health

An Emerging Field in Religion and Reproductive Health

Published: Jan 22, 2010 by Journal of Religion and Health
Authors: Gaydos, Laura; Hogue, Carol; Blevins, John
Subjects: Health and Social Care, Religion

In surveying literature in religion and reproductive health, we found 377 peer-reviewed articles. Most were categorized as family planning (129), sexual behavior (81), domestic violence (39), pregnancy (46), HIV/AIDS (71), and STDs (61). Article frequency increased over time, from 3 articles in 1980 to 38 articles in 2008. While field growth is evident, there is still no cohesive “scholarship” in religion and reproductive health.