Yanaira Rivera


Assistant Professor of Communication


Annex B 154

Yonaira Rivera’s scholarship focuses on reducing health inequities and improving the well-being of Latinx and underserved communities through health communication initiatives. Her work uses qualitatively-driven, mixed methods and community-based participatory research to study social media health misinformation, cancer control and prevention, and disaster relief. She conducts research in English and Spanish.


Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
PhD, Social & Behavioral Sciences

Emory University
MPH, Behavioral Sciences & Health Education

Rutgers University
BS, Biotechnology


Addressing health inequities and improving the health of underserved populations have always been at the forefront of Yonaira’s work. Her research explores the role of social media as a health communication tool that educates and empowers Latinx audiences. Rivera focuses on effective, theory-driven health communication to understand how engagement with health (mis)information on social media can impact health decisions, as well as how social media can be used to communicate with and mobilize communities before, during and after disasters.

Rivera’s line of work in cancer control and prevention explores how Latinxs engage with and act upon cancer (mis)information they encounter on social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, WhatsApp). Her research suggests that cultural values and other cultural connectors (e.g., language and country of origin) play a salient role in how message factors and source factors influence engagement with cancer (mis)information among Latinxs, as well as in how they assess the credibility of such (mis)information and choose to act upon it. She developed the social media content and context (SoCo) elicitation method as mixed methods approach to surpass the constraints of assessing engagement with health information by only using social media metrics such as likes, comments, or shares. This approach allows for a better representation of how individuals engage with health (mis)information in reality, and how these interactions influence health behaviors.

As a native Puerto Rican, Rivera is committed to the long-term recovery of Puerto Rican communities affected by Hurricane María. She co-founded Puerto Rico Stands and has worked alongside local community leaders to provided them transferable skills and tools to build on their strengths and empower them to create a more resilient community. Her research agenda furthers this work by exploring the role social media platforms play in coordinating and facilitating disaster relief communication efforts.

Centers, Labs, Working Groups, and Clusters

Funded Projects

Contextualizing cancer (mis)information engagement & dissemination among adult Latino social media users. 2020 Cancer Prevention and Control Pilot Award - Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey’s Cancer Center Support Grant (P30 CA072720). Direct costs: $59,998 (Ongoing)

Exploring cancer messaging engagement among Latino adults age 40-75 on Facebook. National Cancer Institute – Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (1 F31 CA224615-01A1). Direct annual costs: $44,524. (2018-2020)

Exploring cancer messaging engagement among Latino adults age 40-75 on Facebook. National Cancer InstituteCenter for Reducing Cancer Health Disparities GMaP Region 1 Research Project Support Program (3 P30 CA177558-05S3). Direct costs: $9,259. (2018-2019)

Grassroots and Community Partnerships to Achieve Health Equity in Puerto Rico after Hurricane María: Community Needs Assessment and Capacity Building in Sector Maná by Puerto Rico Stands. Bloomberg American Health Initiative – Johns Hopkins University (Ex-SE-02-19006). Direct costs: $10,000. (2018-2019)           

Selected Publications

Rivera, Y. M., Moran, M., Thrul, J., Joshu, C., & Smith, K.C. (In press). Contextualizing Engagement with Health Information on Facebook: Using the Social Media Content and Context Elicitation Method. Journal of Medical Internet Research. DOI: 10.2196/25243

Rivera, Y. M., Moran, M., Thrul, J., Joshu, C., & Smith, K.C. (2021). When engagement leads to action: Understanding the impact of cancer (mis)information among Latino Facebook users. Health Communication. DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2021.1950442; PMID: 34256676, PMCID: PMC8755854

Sutton, J., Rivera, Y. M., Kirk Sell, T., Moran, M., Bennett, D. M., Schoch-Spana, M., Stern, E., & Turetsky, D. (2020). Longitudinal risk communication: A research agenda for communicating in a pandemic. Health Security.

Rivera, Y. M. (2018). Reducing Cancer Health Disparities among U.S. Latinos: A Freireian Approach. International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare, 11(5), 368-379. DIO: 10.1108/IJHRH-02-2018-0021

Rivera, Y. M., Vélez, H., Canales, J., Jiménez, J. C., Moreno, L., Torres, J., Vadaparampil, S., Muñoz-Antonia, T., & Quinn, G. P. (2015). When a Common Language Is Not Enough: Transcreating Cancer 101 for Communities in Puerto Rico. Journal of Cancer Education, 1-8. DOI 10.1007/s13187-015-0912-2.

Awards & Recognitions

Recipient of Loan Repayment Program in Health Disparities Research, NCI/NIH, 2021-2023

Honoree in recognition for testifying before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband regarding the impact of misinformation on vaccine hesitancy among Latinx communities, Rutgers University’s Chancellor & Provost 2020-2021 Celebration of Faculty Excellence Award Ceremony, 2021

Best Rapid-Fire Oral Presentation at the PRISM Health Symposium, 2020

Doctoral Distinguished Research Award, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2019

Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, National Institutes of Health, 2018-2020

Ruth L. Kirschstein National Cancer Institute Predoctoral Fellowship, 2015-2018


Additional Resources

Oral and written testimony at the hearing "Shot of Truth: Communicating Trusted Vaccine Information" held by the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, & Broadband of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation (April 15, 2021)

Center for Latinx Digital Media's Virtual Seminar Series: Understanding the impact of engagement with cancer (mis)information among Latino Facebook users.

National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Control & Population Sciences’ Research in Understudied Populations and Cancer Disparities Webinar Series - Using Social Media and eHealth to Address Health Disparities: Promises and Perils

Research Keywords