Deborah C. Girasek, PhD

Deborah C. Girasek, PhD

Deborah C. Girasek

Name: Deborah C. Girasek, MPH, PhD

Department of Primary Appointment: Preventive Medicine & Biostatistics
Position: USU Faculty
Title: Director, Social and Behavioral Sciences Division

Email: (link sends e-mail)
Office Phone: (301) 295-9775
Room: Bldg. A, Room 2055A

Department Website



Dr. Girasek currently serves as the Director of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. In that capacity she oversees graduate training in the social and behavioral aspects of public health. Her research focuses on unintentional injuries. In particular, Dr. Girasek is interested in increasing the adoption of evidence-based injury prevention methods. Her work is widely published, and she is frequently invited to speak in national and international venues.


  • MPH Health Education/Health Behavior, University of Michigan School of Public Health
  • PhD Social and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health 


Dr. Girasek has carried out mail and telephone surveys that explore public beliefs about the leading causes of fatal unintentional injury in the United States, and how such deaths should be prevented.

She directed one of the first scientific attempts to measure Traffic Safety Culture on a national level. Such systematic approaches are critical to increasing social support for evidence-based road safety efforts.

In collaboration with USUHS graduate students, she has demonstrated that members of lower socioeconomic groups are less likely to drive motor vehicles with optimal safety features, and that child safety seat instructions are written at too high of a reading level for large segments of the United States' parent population.

Dr. Girasek designed an intervention to persuade parents with pools to install isolation fencing that could reduce their children's risk of drowning by more than 80%. In this randomized-control evaluation study, mothers who were exposed to the treatment video were more likely to erect the recommended type of fence, and significantly more likely to take infant/child CPR training.

Dr. Girasek performed the inaugural study of airline passengers' use of alcohol, as well as their use of seatbelts in flight.

In a small, qualitative study, Dr. Girasek asked parents who had lost children to unintentional injury how they felt about contributing to prevention campaigns, and what advice they would offer injury control professionals who wanted to partner with surviving family members.

Dr. Girasek carried out a drowning prevention needs assessment in Yosemite National Park, and is currently planning to evaluate a water safety intervention in another outdoor venue.

Dr. Girasek is currently analyzing interviews she conducted with state policy-makers to understand what influences how they vote on traffic safety legislation.


  • PMO 531 Program Planning and Development

Areas of Expertise

  • Social & Behavioral Aspects of Unintentional Injury Control
  • Needs Assessment
  • Survey Development
  • Focus Group Facilitation
  • Program Development & Evaluation
  • Drowning Prevention
  • Traffic Safety

Selected Publications

  • Girasek DC, Marschall JS, Pope D. Patterns of behavior that pose potential drowning risk to hikers at Yosemite National Park. Journal of Travel Medicine 23(1):tav016, 2016. doi: 10.1093/jtm/tav016. 
  • Girasek DC, Marschall JS, Pope D. Understanding Hikers Who Approached a Hazardous River in Yosemite National Park. Injury Prevention. Published Online First:28 September 2015 doi:10.1136/injuryprev-2015-041625.
  • Girasek DC. How members of the public interpret the word accident. Injury Prevention 21:205-210, 2015. doi:10.1136/ip.5.1.19rep  (Please Note: this citation marks the paper’s selection for republication, in honor of the journal’s 20 year anniversary).
  • Girasek DC. Gauging Popular Support for Traffic Safety in the United States. Accident Analysis & Prevention. 50:1112–1117, 2013.
  • Girasek DC. Towards operationalizing and measuring the Traffic Safety Culture construct.  International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion, 9(1):37- 46, 2012. 
  • Smith KC, Girasek DC, Baker S, Manganello J, Bowman SM, Samuels A, Gielen A. 'It was a freak accident': An analysis of the labeling of injury events in the U.S. press. Injury Prevention.18(1):38-43, 2012. 
  • Girasek DC. Evaluation of a brief intervention designed to increase CPR training among pregnant pool owners. Health Education Research. 26(4):689-97, 2011.
  • Girasek DC, Taylor B. An Exploratory Study of the Relationship Between Socioeconomic Status and Motor Vehicle Safety Features. Traffic Injury Prevention 11(2):151-155, 2010.
  • Canham-Chervak, M; Hooper, TI; Brennan, FH; Craig, SC; Girasek, DC; Schaefer, FA; Barbour, G; Yew, KS; Jones, BH. A Systematic Process to Prioritize Prevention Activities: Sustaining Progress Toward the Reduction of Military Injuries. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 38(1, Supplement):S11-18, 2010.
  • McKibben JBA, Ekselius L, Girasek DC, Gould NF, Holzer III C, Rosenberg M, Dissanaike S, Gielen, AC. Epidemiology of burn injuries II: Psychiatric and behavioural perspectives. International Review of Psychiatry, 21(6): 1-10, 2009.
  • Girasek DC, Olsen CH. Airline Passengers' Alcohol Use and Its Safety Implications. Journal of Travel Medicine 16(5):311-316, 2009.
  • Girasek DC, Olsen CH. Usual seatbelt practices reported by airline passengers surveyed in gate areas of a U.S. airport. Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine 78:1050-1054, 2007.
  • Girasek DC. Would society pay more attention to injuries if the injury control community paid more attention to risk communication science? Injury Prevention 12:71-73, 2006.
  • Girasek DC. Advice From Bereaved Parents: on Forming Partnerships for Injury Prevention. Health Promotion Practice 6(2):207-213, 2005.
  • Girasek DC. Parents who have lost children to injuries discuss taking part in prevention campaigns: An Exploratory Study. Death Studies 27:1-8, 2003.
  • Girasek DC, Gielen AC. The effectiveness of injury prevention strategies: what does the public believe? Health Education & Behavior 30 (3):287-304, 2003.
  • Wegner MV, Girasek DC. How readable are child safety seat instructions? Pediatrics 111(3):588-591, 2003.
  • Girasek DC, Gielen AC, Smith GS. Alcohol's contribution to fatal injuries: a report on public perceptions. Annals of Emergency Medicine 39:622-630, 2002. (Focus of an accompanying editorial.)
  • Girasek DC. Public beliefs about the preventability of unintentional injury deaths. Accident Analysis & Prevention 33: 27-37, 2001.

Book Chapters

  • Girasek D. Behavioral Determinants. Book chapter in Li G, Baker SP (Eds) Injury Research: Theories, Methods, and Approaches. Springer: NY, 2012.
  • Girasek, D. Risk Communication. In Gielen AC, Sleet D, DeClemente RJ (Eds.). Handbook of Injury Prevention: Behavior Change Theories, Methods, and Applications. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA, 2006.
  • McDonald E, Girasek D, Gielen AC. Home Injuries. In Liller KD (Eds.). Injury Prevention for Children and Adolescents: Research, Practice and Advocacy. American Public Health Association: Washington, DC, 2006.
  • Gielen AC, Girasek DC. Integrating perspectives on the prevention of unintentional injuries. In Schneiderman N, Gentry J, DaSilva JM, Speers M, and Tomes H (Eds.). Integrating Behavioral and Social Sciences with Public Health. American Psychological Association: Washington, DC, 2001.