Lourdes Johanna Avelar Portillo

Lourdes Johanna Avelar Portillo, PhD, MA

Postdoctoral Scholar
School of Medicine


Lourdes Johanna Avelar Portillo earned her PhD in the Population, Health and Place at the University of Southern California where she focused on addressing interim-level needs, specifically drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) service needs of unhoused communities in Los Angeles. Prior to USC, Johanna earned her MA in Geography at Cal State Long Beach where she explored the intersections of gender, emotional geographies, and household water insecurity in rural communities of Santo Tomas, El Salvador. Johanna earned her BA in Geography and Environmental Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. These research experiences have shaped Johanna’s research interests: addressing the experiences of WaSH insecurity and health equity through an intersectional lens. In 2022, Johanna recently completed a one-year fellowship at UC San Diego’s School of Public Health as a GloCal Health scholar, a program sponsored by the NIH-Fogarty International Center. Using mixed methods, Johanna explored the intersection of WaSH insecurity and generalized anxiety disorder experienced by people who inject drugs living in different housing conditions along the Tijuana-San Diego border region. Currently, Johanna is completing her second year as a postdoctoral fellow with the Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative Program at UC San Francisco where she is working on two main projects. One is focused on Latinx communities experiencing homelessness using data from the California Statewide Study of People Experiencing Homelessness (CASPEH) to examine potential the factors that lead to underutilization of government assistance among this underserved and underexplored group. Additionally, Johanna is working on a study that explore the intersecting vulnerabilities and impacts of WaSH insecurity on older adults experiencing homelessness in Oakland, CA using data from the Health Outcomes of People Experiencing Homelessness in Older Middle Age (HOPE HOME) study.