Heather Orom

Photo of Heather Orom.

Heather Orom is an expert on factors that affect people’s perception of their personal risk for developing disease.

Orom's first line of research is on the causes of health disparities, which include factors such as unemployment, underdeveloped neighborhoods, absence of grocery stores and poor access to health care, among others. She is interested in how broad social determinants of health such as discrimination influence health outcomes.

Traditionally, it has been assumed that people can nearly always judge their personal risk for disease. However, several studies by Orom and colleagues indicate that this is not the case. Many people do not know or are uncertain about their person risk for a variety of common diseases. The team has been exploring both the underlying causes of uncertainty about perceived risk and its behavioral consequences.

Orom has taught Health Disparities, a survey class that focuses on the pattern and causes of health inequities affecting a variety of populations, including people of color, people with low socioeconomic status, sexual minorities and rural populations.