The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Lorraine Cordeiro

Assistant Professor, Nutrition
Family Research Scholar, 2010-11



Dr. Cordeiro is an American of Tanzanian Goan heritage who came to the U.S. in 1989 and became a first-generation graduate from Mount Holyoke College. Born and raised in Tanzania, Dr. Cordeiro is the youngest of three children of the late Henry and Louisine Cordeiro of Moshi, Tanzania. Both her siblings have a love of learning and are educators. Dr. Cordeiro is married to Hai Cheng, UMass ’91, ’96, who came as a Cambodian unaccompanied minor from a Thai refugee camp to the U.S. in 1982 and completed graduate school at UMass A. They have two teenagers in the Amherst Regional Public Schools.


Dr. Cordeiro studies the associations between food security, high risk health behaviors, and nutritional outcomes among adolescents and women in multiple social and cultural contexts. Her community-engaged research, teaching, and service promotes social justice and equity, particularly as it relates to the health and well-being of families. She applies the principles of community-based participatory research (CBPR), both to respect and leverage the wisdom of underserved communities and as a pathway to build their research capital. Her work serves to create a meaningful dialogue on health and economic disparities in underserved populations in the U.S., internationally, and in communities undergoing transition.

While many years have passed since the major refugee resettlement period in the 1980s, a large proportion of Cambodian individuals and families that survived the Khmer Rouge genocide still suffer from poverty and trauma. One of the consequences of this long-term socioeconomic deprivation is food insecurity, which has been linked with maternal depression and lower odds of meeting recommended dietary allowances among women of reproductive age. Cordeiro and her research team used a combination of qualitative and quantitative research techniques to test such associations and examine the consumption of traditional medicinal teas during pregnancy and the postpartum period. In addition to its more general contributions to the field of public health nutrition, this research will be particularly useful in designing culturally-appropriate health education programs for women in these and other Cambodian refugee communities.