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Hee Yun Lee

Professor; Director of Research
Ph.D., University of California-Los Angeles
M.S.W., University of California-Los Angeles
M.S.G., University of Southern California
M.A., Seoul National University
B.A., Seoul National University

School of Social Work
Rm 279 Peters Hall

1404 Gortner Ave.
Tel: 612-624-3689

Areas of Interest

Health behavior change intervention using mobile health technology; cancer prevention intervention RCT trials; translational health research; cancer screening disparity in underserved minority populations; social/cultural determinants of health; cancer survivorship and culturally tailored intervention strategies; health literacy and its link to health disparity; and global health.


Dr. Hee Yun Lee is a Professor and Director of Research at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. She is a behavioral health scientist and her major research areas are health behavior change intervention using mobile health (mHealth) technology. Combining mHealth technology and a community-based participatory research approach, she is developing and testing intervention programs to promote cancer screening behavior and to increase health and cancer literacy. Her integration of mHealth technology and existing health behavior theories into intervention strategies provides an opportunity to investigate mHealth’s potential to render positive behavior change in typically underserved and difficult-to-reach minority groups.

Dr. Lee is currently conducting multiple research projects. With funding from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and National Cancer Institute, she currently develops and tests an mHealth intervention that aims to improve HPV vaccination in an underserved immigrant group. She also investigates the effectiveness of a mobile application-based intervention that aims to increase mammogram in an immigrant group with limited English proficiency. Her other RCT trial focuses on developing and testing a mobile application assisted intervention to promote genetic counseling among ovarian cancer patients and survivors. This intervention research is supported by the U.S. Department of Defense. Recently, she completed a text message-based intervention study funded by the National Cancer Institute (R21) that aimed to increase Pap test and HPV vaccination in a minority group. The intervention outcomes revealed mHealth as a promising intervention tool to positively change cancer screening and prevention behavior. Her other line of research is global health. She is currently conducting numerous studies in the areas of cancer disparity and health literacy in Korea, Uganda, and Vietnam. These studies investigated how health literacy is linked to health disparity among disadvantaged groups and results were used to inform intervention strategies to reduce health disparity in these countries.

Her research efforts to help reduce health disparity in vulnerable groups have received a number of recognitions. She was a recipient of the 2017 Excellence in Research Award and 2009 Multicultural Research Recognition Award by the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development; was named the 2010-2011 Fesler-Lampert Chair in Aging Studies (Endowed Chair) at the Center on Aging, University of Minnesota School of Public Health; and received the 2011 Rising Star Faculty Award from the University of Minnesota Women’s Philanthropic Leadership Circle. Early in 2012, she was competitively selected as a NIH Clinical Translational Science Institute KL2 Scholar (3-year NIH career development award). She was also a recipient of the 2007 Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholar Award (Cohort 8) and 2004 Hartford Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship. Her work has been widely published in social work, medical, nursing, and public health journals, and she has been invited to speak at numerous national and international conferences and universities.

Selected Publications

  1. Lee, H.Y., Lee, M.H., Jang, Y. J., & Lee, D.K. (In Press). Breast Cancer Screening Disparity among Korean American Immigrant Women in Midwest, Asian American Journal of Cancer Prevention.

  2. Khuu, B., Lee, H.Y., & Zhou, A. (In Press). Health literacy and associated factors in Hmong American immigrants: Addressing the health disparities. Journal of Community Health.

  3. Lee, E.J., Lee, H.Y, & Chung, S.D. (In Press). Age differences in health literacy in Korean adults: Implications for health care practices and policies. Health and Social Work. 

  4. Kim, Y.S., Rhee, G., Lee, H.Y., Park, B.H., & Sharratt, M. (2017). Mental health literacy as a mediator in use of mental health services among older Korean adults. International Psychogeriatrics, 29(2), 269-279. doi: 10.1017/S1041610216001721.

  5. Lee, H.Y. & Lee, M.H. (2016). Barriers to Cervical Cancer Screening and Prevention in Young Korean Immigrant Women: Implications for Intervention Development. Journal of Transcultural Nursing. doi: 10.1177/1043659616649670.

  6. Lee, H.Y., Koopmeiners, J., Mchugh, J., Raveis, V., & Ahluwalia, J.  (2016). mHealth Pilot Study: Text Messaging Intervention to Promote HPV Vaccination. American Journal of Health Behavior, 40(1), 67-76. doi: 10.5993/AJHB.40.1.8.

  7. Kim, J.H., Lee, H.Y., Christensen, C., & Merighi, M. (2016). Technology Access and Use, and Their Associations With Social Engagement Among Older Adults: Do Women and Men Differ? The Journals of Gerontology: Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbw123.

  8. Lee, H.Y., Rhee, G., & Kim, N.G. (2016). Cancer literacy as a mediator for cancer screening behaviour in Korean adults. Health and Social Care in the Community, 24(5), e34-e42. doi: 10.1111/hsc.12243.

  9. Khuu, B., Lee, H.Y., Zhou, A., Shin, J.H., & Lee, R. (2016). Healthcare providers' perspectives on parental health literacy and child health outcomes among Southeast Asian American immigrants and refugees. Children and Youth Services Review, 67, 220-229. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2016.06.006.

  10. Lee, H.Y., Stange, M.J., & Ahluwalia, J.S. (2015). Breast cancer screening behaviors among Korean American immigrant women: Findings from Health Belief Model. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 26(5), 450-457. doi: 10.1177/1043659614526457.

  11. Lee, H.Y., Kim, J.H., & Merighi, J. (2015). Physical Activity and Self-Rated Health Status Among Older Adult Cancer Survivors: Does Intensity of Activity Play a Role?. Oncology Nursing Forum, 42(6), 614-624. doi: 10.1188/15.ONF.614-624.

  12. Lee, H.Y., Lee, J.W., & Kim, N.K. (2015). Gender differences in health literacy among Korean Adults: Do women have a higher level of health literacy than men? American Journal of Men’s Health, 9(5), 370-379. doi: 10.1177/1557988314545485.

  13. Lee, H.Y., Kim, N.K., Rhee, T.G., & Ahluwalia, J.S. (2015). Health literacy as a social determinant of health in Asian American immigrants: Findings from a population-based survey in California. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 30(8), 1118-1124. doi:10.1007/s11606-015-3217-6.

  14. Lee, H.Y., & Vang, S. (2015). Cultural beliefs and clinical breast examination in Hmong American women: The crucial role of modesty. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 17(3), 746-755. doi:10.1007/s10903-013-9890-9.

  15. Lee, H.Y., Yang, P., Lee, D. K., & Ghebre, R. (2015). Cervical Cancer Screening Behavior among Hmong-American Immigrant Women. American Journal of Health Behavior, 39(3), 301-307. doi: 10.5993/AJHB.39.3.2.