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Department ofPublic Health

Alice Villatoro

Alice P. Villatoro

Assistant Professor

Alice P. Villatoro is a mental health disparities researcher with training in health services, psychiatric epidemiology, and medical sociology. She received her Ph.D. from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and completed postdoctoral training at Columbia University in New York City. Prior to joining the Public Health faculty at Santa Clara University, she was a Research Assistant Professor at the Latino Research Institute at the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Villatoro’s research is centered on health equity and examines populations that have been historically underrepresented in public health research. Her research is interdisciplinary in that she fuses theory driven-basic research with an applied population health orientation to understand the ways in which structural, social, cultural, and psychological factors shape mental health care disparities in Latinx communities and other diverse populations. Collectively, her research has been frequently cited, presented at international conferences, and recognized by the National Center for Institutional Diversity and The AcademyHealth/Aetna Foundation for Minority Scholars.

Dr. Villatoro is currently working on several collaborative research projects:

  • Latinx Mental Illness Stigma Narratives Study (Role: Principal Investigator): This qualitative study aims to (1) understand how mental illness stigma affects the mental health trajectories of Latinx adults and those around them, (2) identify critical sources of stigma in Latinx communities, and (3) inform the development of innovative upstream and downstream interventions to better address stigma in Latinx populations. The study prioritizes the inclusion of Latinx adults residing in distinct geographic regions across the United States (New York, Texas, and California), English and Spanish-speaking individuals, and people with and without lived mental health experiences. Latinx populations in the United States are heterogeneous, so it is important for this study to spotlight the diversity of Latinx communities.

  • Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Latinxs through the Social Determinants of Health (Role: co-Principal Investigator): Funded by the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) grant, this interdisciplinary study will examine perceived need for mental health care among Latinx adults in the Bay Area. To fully comprehend the scope of mental health needs of Latinxs, it is critical to frame and assess perceived need in the context of culture and the social determinants of health to ensure that mental health needs of Latinx populations not only attend to symptoms but also to the sociocultural factors that underlie these conditions. As part of the study, Dr. Villatoro and Dr. Veronica Miranda (Department of Anthropology) will bridge their expertise in psychiatric epidemiology, mental health services, and ethnography to examine the following central research questions: (1) How do Latinx adults in the Bay Area conceptualize perceived need for mental health support? (2) How are these perceptions linked to culture and the social determinants of health? The findings from this study will assist clinics and community-based organizations to better plan, design, and deliver mental health support services for Latinx communities that extend beyond specialty psychiatric services and address the social determinants of health.

  • Perinatal Mental Health Needs with the Latinx Community in the Silicon Valley (Role: Co-Principal Investigator): This research is funded by the Bannan Forum Mission Integration Grant. The study provides a human-centered ethnographic approach and utilizes a public lens to understand how Latinx birthgivers navigate their postpartum lives. In collaboration with Dr. Veronica Miranda (Department of Anthropology), the objectives of the study are to: understand how the social determinants of health influence perinatal mental health during the postpartum period and investigate need for healthcare, wellbeing, and mental health support among Latinx birthgivers. This project aims to identify long-term care solutions and potentially sustainable resources that are important to addressing the perinatal mental health. 
  • Media Consumption and Health Communication Behaviors among Latinx Populations (Role: Co-Investigator): Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this project addresses an inequity in our understanding of mental illness stigma in media. The study is divided into two phases. In Phase 1, the collaborators are examining English and Spanish-language media consumption patterns and health communication behaviors among Latinx populations in the United States. The second phase of the study is qualitatively evaluating and comparing mental health-related content in Spanish- and English-language media that Latinx populations commonly consume.


  • PHSC 3 Introduction to Community Health

  • PHSC 50 Statistics for Public Health
  • PHSC 150 Evidence-Based Public Health
  • PHSC 190 Public Health Capstone

Selected Recent Publications (in order of publication):

  • Villatoro, A.P., DuPont-Reyes, M.J., Phelan, J.C., & Link, B.G. (2022). ‘Me’ vs. ‘Them’: How mental illness stigma influences help-seeking referrals and personal behaviors among adolescents. Stigma and Health, 7(3): 300-310. DOI: 10.1037/sah0000392.
  • Villatoro, A.P., Wagner, K.M., Salgado de Snyder, V.N., Garcia, D., Walsdorf, A.A., & Valdez, C.R. (2022). Economic and social consequences of COVID-19 and mental health burden among Latinx young adults during the 2020 pandemic. Journal of Latinx Psychology, 10(1): 25-38. DOI: 10.1037/lat0000195.
  • Link, B.G., DuPont-Reyes, M.J., Barkin, K.F., Villatoro, A.P., Phelan, J.C., & Painter, K. (2020). A school-based intervention for mental illness stigma: A cluster randomized trial. Pediatrics, 145(6). DOI: 10.1542/peds.2019-0780.
  • Villatoro, A.P., DuPont-Reyes, M.J., Phelan, J.C., Painter, K. & Link, B.G. (2022). Parental recognition of preadolescent mental health problems: Does stigma matter?. Social Science & Medicine, 216: 88-96. DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.09.040.
  • Villatoro, A.P., Mays, V.M., Ponce, N.A., & Aneshensel, C.S. (2018). Perceived need for mental health care: The intersection of race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status. Society and Mental Health, 8(1): 1-24. DOI: 10.1177/2156869317718889.


In the News

October 6, 2021

Alice Villatoro explains how people who face racial and ethnic discrimination have trouble reaching out for mental health care.

Valeriote Goldman Symposium: Public Health & Social Justice