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Johnson, Karen

Karen Johnson

Assistant Professor

Contact Information

Office: 2005 Little Hall
Phone: 205-348-3939

Areas of Interest and Expertise

  • Implementation Science
  • Sexual Health and Wellness
  • System Involvement (Criminal Legal System, Homelessness)
  • Depression / Trauma / Mental Health Prevention and Intervention
  • Substance Use Prevention and Intervention
  • HIV/Sexually Transmitted Infections
  • Intervention Development, Adaptation, and Implementation


  • BA, Syracuse University, New York, NY
  • MSW, Hunter College, New York, NY
  • PhD, Columbia University


Dr. Karen Johnson is an Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama, School of Social Work, a Visiting Scholar at Yale University, and a 2023 Boston Congress of Public Health, Health Innovator to Watch award recipient. Dr. Johnson received her Ph.D. from Columbia University, School of Social Work and completed post-doctoral training in Global Mental Health and Implementation Science from Columbia University / New York State Psychiatric Institute. Dr. Johnson is an affiliate with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Center for AIDS Research and completed a UAB National Institutes of Health funded fellowship in Minority Health and Health Disparities research. Dr. Johnson has also completed a research fellowship at Johns Hopkins University in implementation science. Dr. Johnson’s research explores historical, cultural, and contextual factors such as trauma, racism, oppression, religiosity, stigma, and place that drives sexual risk behaviors in Black women living in the Northeast and the deep South. Her work specifically focuses on 1) decreasing sexual risk behaviors and other co-occurring risks such as intimate partner violence, common mental health disorders among low-income, drug-using women across the life course; 2) evidence-based intervention development, adaptation, acculturation, and implementation; and 3) training and engagement of peer interventionists. In addition to her research training, Dr. Johnson has over twenty years of direct practice experience working with low-income women with high rates of incarceration, homelessness, drug use, and sexual risk behaviors. Dr. Johnson has also served as a co-investigator and supported intervention adaptation and implementation efforts for studies funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Dr. Johnson is also a New York State Office of Mental Health (NYS OMH) Policy Scholar and a Center on Community-Based Partnerships Graduate Fellowship Award recipient. Dr. Johnson designed and implemented an implementation science focused qualitative study with drug-using, formerly homeless women on probation and parole (n=30) and practitioners (N=10) in justice, clinic and shelter settings funded by NYS OMH and currently has three active research pilots, all of which are implementation science focused. Two of the three focus on implementing multi-media HIV/STI prevention interventions with Black, drug-using, justice-involved women in rural and sub-urban criminal justice settings in Alabama. The third focuses on reducing health disparities and transportation inequities experienced by HIV positive men and women receiving treatment services AIDS Services Organization in Alabama’s Black Belt. Dr. Johnson is also currently the principal investigator of an implementation science focused study funded by the National Institutes of Health which aims to adapt and implement a HIV prevention intervention for justice-involved Black women who use substances in the Deep South.

Selected Publications

Johnson, K. A., Hunt, T., Puglisi, L., Chapman, B., Epa-Llop, A., Elumn, J., Braick, P., Bhagat, N., Ko, E., Nguyen, A., Johnson, R., Graham, H. K., Gilbert, L., El-Bassel, N., & Morse, D. S. (2023). HIV/STI/HCV Risk Clusters and Hierarchies Experienced by Women Recently Released from Incarceration. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland), 11(8), 1066.
Johnson K.A., Binon S, Waller B, Sutton A, Wilkes S, Payne-Foster P, Carlson C. Left Behind in U.S.’ Deep South. Deep South-Specific Risks that Impact on HIV and Intimate Partner Violence Prevention Efforts Targeting Black Women: An Opinion Article. Opinion, Front. Reprod. Health – HIV and STIs. 2022 Aug. doi: 10.3389/frph.2022.1008788.
Johnson, K.A., Hunt, T., Goddard-Eckrich, D. Wu, E. Richards, S., Tibbetts, R., Rowe, J.C., Maynard, Q.R., Okine, J., Wainberg, M.L., El-Bassel, N., & Gilbert, L. Health Equity Considerations: HIV Intervention Adaptation for Black Women in Community Corrections. Research on Social Work Practice. doi: 10.1177/10497315221132523.
Lee, H.Y., Wang, K., Johnson, K., Kubanga, K., Han A. & Choi, E. Does the use of social media affect the online health information-seeking behaviors among underserved African Americans in rural Alabama? Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved. doi: 10.1353/hpu.2022.0147. PMID: 36341672.
Lee, L. H., Kim, M., Carlson, C., Ellis, T., Johnson, K.A., & Pretz, A. (2022). The Association Between Perceptions of Neighborhood Conditions and the Employment of Emerging Adults Formerly Involved in the Juvenile Justice System. Youth & Society, 54(7), 1280–1303.
Johnson, K., Pretz, A., Chu, W., West, C. I., Chang, M. P., Anand, A., Chapman, B. P., Goddard-Eckrich, D., Hunt, T., Wu, E., Gilbert, L., & El-Bassel, N. (2021). The Increased Risk for HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Infections Among Substance-Using and Depressed Women in the Legal System. Journal of healthcare, science and the humanities, 11(1), 225–250.
Johnson, K.A., Wilkes, S., Alameda-Lawson, T. (2021) Encyclopedia of Macro Social Work (EOMSW). Macro Community Practice. Capacity Building. doi: 10.1093/acrefore/9780199975839.013.864.
Albright, D. L., Johnson, K., Laha-Walsh, K., McDaniel, J., & McIntosh, S. (2021). Social Determinants of Opioid Use among Patients in Rural Primary Care Settings. Social work in public health, 36(6), 723–731. doi: 10.1080/19371918.2021.1939831.
Mootz, J.J., Basaraba, C.N., Corbeil, T., Johnson, K., Kubanga, K.P., Wainberg, M.L., Khoshnood, K. Armed Conflict, HIV, and the Syndemic of Mental Distress, Alcohol Misuse, and Intimate Partner Violence in Northeastern Uganda: A Dyadic Analysis. Journal of Traumatic Stress. doi: 10.1002/jts.22740.
Gilbert L, Goddard-Eckrich D, Chang M,…Johnson, K. et al. Effectiveness of a Culturally Tailored HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infection Prevention Intervention for Black Women in Community Supervision Programs: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(4):e215226. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.5226.
Lu, J., Potts, C.A., Allen, R.S….Johnson, K. et al. An Exploration of Spiritual Well-being Among Homeless People: A Hierarchical Regression Analysis. J Relig Health (2021). doi: 10.1007/s10943-020-01158-6.
Johnson, K., Gilbert, L., Hunt, T. et al. The effectiveness of a group-based computerized HIV/STI prevention intervention for black women who use drugs in the criminal justice system: study protocol for E-WORTH (Empowering African-American Women on the Road to Health), a Hybrid Type 1 randomized controlled trial. Trials 19, 486 (2018).
Scorza, P., Duarte, C., Lovero, K., Carlson, C., Mootz, J., Johnson, K., & Wainberg, M. (2019). Editorial perspective: Reaching beyond the clinic: Leveraging implementation science to improve access to child and adolescent mental health services. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 60(6), 707–710. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.13017.

Johnson, K., Gilbert, L., Hunt, T., Hunt, T., Wu, E., Metsch, L., Goddard-Eckrich, D., Richards, S., Tibbets, R., Rowe, J. Wainberg, M., El-Bassel, N. (in press). E-WORTH and Streamlined HIV Testing versus Streamlined HIV Testing alone in decreasing biologically confirmed STIs and increasing condom use among drug-involved Black women in the criminal justice system. Trials.

Hellman, L, Wainberg, ML, Mootz, J, Carlson, C, Johnson, K, Neria, Y. Women’s Mental Health Following Trauma as a Global Public Health Priority: A Review and Call for Action. The Lancet.

Wainberg ML, Scorza P, Shultz JM, Helpman L, Mootz JJ, Johnson KA, Neria Y, Bradford JE, Oquendo MA, Arbuckle MR. Challenges and Opportunities in Global Mental Health: a Research-to-Practice Perspective. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2017 May;19(5):28. doi: 10.1007/s11920-017-0780-z. Review. PubMed PMID: 28425023.

El-Bassel N, Marotta PL, Shaw SA, Chang M, Ma X, GoddardEckrich D, Hunt T, Johnson K, Goodwin S, Almonte M, et al. Women in community corrections in New York City: HIV infection and risks. Int J STD AIDS. 2017 Feb;28(2):160-169. doi: 10.1177/0956462416633624. Epub 2016 Jul 10. PubMed PMID: 26887890; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5367917.

Nabila El-Bassel, Phillip L. Marotta, Dawn Goddard-Eckrich, Stacey Shaw Mingway, Chang, Xin Ma PhD, MS, Tim Hunt, Karen Johnson, Sharun Goodwin, BS Maria Almonte, MSW, and Louisa Gilbert PhD (2016). Women in community corrections in New York City: HIV infection and risks. Int J STD AIDS.

Gilbert, L, Goddard-Eckrich, D., Hunt T, Ma X, Chang M, Rowe J, McCrimmon T, Johnson K, Goodwin S, Almonte M, Shaw SA. Efficacy of a Computerized HIV and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) Prevention intervention (WORTH) on reducing IPV among Substance-using Women in Community Corrections. Am J Public Health. 2016 Jul;106(7):1278-86. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303119. Epub 2016 Apr 14.

Vijayaraghavan M, Tochterman A, Hsu E, Johnson K, Marcus S & Caton C (2012). Health, Access to Health Care, and Health Care use Among Homeless Women with a History of Intimate Partner Violence. Journal of Community Health.

Caton C, El Bassel N, Barrow S, Herman D, Hsu E, Zanger A & Johnson K. Rates of HIV and STI Infection Among Homeless Women. AIDS and Behavior: Volume 17, Issue 3 (2013), Page 856-864.