Sarah MacCarthy

Photo of Sarah MacCarthy
Policy Researcher; Affiliate Faculty, Pardee RAND Graduate School
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Sc.D. in global public health, Harvard School of Public Health; M.Sc. in population and international health, Harvard School of Public Health

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This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email

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Sarah MacCarthy is a policy researcher at the RAND Corporation and an affiliate faculty member at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. Her research focuses on health services utilization among key populations, with special attention to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults.

MacCarthy is trilingual (English, Portuguese, and Spanish), earned her B.A. from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and received her M.Sc. in population and international health and Sc.D. in global public health from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Selected Publications

MacCarthy, S., Saunders, CL., Elliott, MN, "Increased Reporting of Sexual Minority Orientation from 2009 to 2017 in England and Implications for Measuring Sexual Minority Health Disparities," LGBT Health, 7(7), 2020

Linnemayr, S., Barreras, JL., Izenberg, M., Brooks, RA., Gonzales, A., MacCarthy, S., , "Longitudinal Assessment of Changes in Mental and Sexual Health Outcomes Due to COVID-19 among Latinx Sexual Minority Men and Transgender Women," Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, 15(85), 2020

MacCarthy, S., Agniel, D., Beckett, M., Burkhart, Q., Martino, S., Quigley, D., Ng, J., Guerino, P. Elliott, M., , "An integrated approach to measuring sexual orientation disparities in women’s access to health services: An NHIS application," LGBT Health, 2019 (forthcoming)

MacCarthy, S., Poteat, T., Reisner, S., Xia, Z., Roque, N., Kim, A., Baral, S., , "Current Research Gaps: A Global Systematic Review of HIV and STI Infections among Transgender Populations," Sexual Health, 14(5), 2017

MacCarthy, S., Mena, L., Chan, PA., Rose, J., Simmons, D., Riggins, R., Chamberlin, N., Hoffmann,M., Perez-Bruemer, A., Nunn, A., "Characterizing the sexual network profiles and risk factors for STIs among sexual minorities in the Deep American South," LGBT Health, 2(3), 2015

MacCarthy, S., Hoffmann, M., Ferguson, L., Nunn, A., Irvin, R., Bangsberg, D., Gruskin, S., Dourado, I., "The HIV Care Cascade: Models, measures, and moving forward," Journal of the International AIDS Society, 18(1), 2015

MacCarthy, S., Reisner, S., Nunn, A., & Operario, D, "The time is now: Increasing attention to transgender health but scientific knowledge gaps remain," LGBT Health, 2(4), 2015

MacCarthy, S., Rasanathan, J.K.K.,Crawford, A., Dourado, I. & Gruskin, S., "Contemplating abortion: HIV-positive women’s decision to terminate pregnancy in Brazil," Journal of Culture, Health and Sexuality, 16(2), 2014

Honors & Awards

  • CFAR Social and Behavioral Science Research Network for Early Career Investigators, Brown University
  • Global Health and Human Rights Fellow, University of Southern California
  • HIV/AIDS Substance Abuse and Trauma Training Program, University of California, Los Angeles


Spanish; Portuguese


  • Person filling out online survey, photo by Tero Vesalainen/Getty Images

    Collect Data on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Health Surveys

    The Biden administration wants to promote programs and policies informed by science and to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans. For researchers to confidently answer that call, the first step is for the government to consistently collect sexual orientation and gender identity data.

    Jun 25, 2021 Health Affairs

  • Joe Exotic, John Finlay and Travis Maldonado of Netflix's Tiger King, photo courtesy of Netflix

    Public Health Lessons on Intimate Partner Violence Tucked into Tiger King

    Substantial work has been done to figure out how best to address intimate partner violence, but with limited attention regarding how best to meet the unique needs of gay, lesbian, and bisexual victims. The popularity of Netflix's Tiger King, and its depiction of intimate partner violence between Joe Exotic and his two husbands, could help to focus attention on a very real, and often hidden, problem.

    May 15, 2020 Ms. Magazine

  • Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, presents an award during the Endeavour Fund Awards in London, UK, February 7, 2019, photo by Tolga Akmen/Reuters

    Meghan Markle May Avoid the Spotlight After Giving Birth and Send a Powerful Public Health Message

    Meghan Markle plans to break from royal tradition by declining to present her baby to the public on the the steps of the maternity ward, hours after giving birth, with flawless hair and makeup. This could bring attention to many of the postpartum challenges faced by women everywhere.

    Apr 11, 2019 USA Today

  • Used Narcan (naloxone hydrochloride) containers and syringes sit in a case, after paramedics revived a man in his 40s, who was found unresponsive, after overdosing on opioids in Salem, Massachusetts, August 9, 2017, photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    (Grey's) Anatomy of an Opioid Crisis

    More than 130 Americans die every day after overdosing on opioids. So when one of the most popular shows on TV made opioid misuse a major plotline, RAND experts paid attention to how it presented this public health crisis. The show mirrored reality pretty closely, for the narrow slice of the opioid crisis it addressed.

    Apr 8, 2019 Scientific American

  • DeRon Horton, who plays Lionel Higgins on 'Dear White People,' arrives at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills, California, June 5, 2018

    Public Health Reasons to Tune Into TV's 'Dear White People'

    The Netflix series Dear White People shows how sexual decisionmaking can be influenced by race, status, and the power dynamics within a relationship. Public health programs and policies could be better tailored to account for this complexity.

    Aug 10, 2018 Scientific American

  • Britain's Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle attend a Service of Thanksgiving and Commemoration on Anzac Day at Westminster Abbey in London, Britain, April 25, 2018

    The Royal Wedding's Bouquet to Public Health

    Prince Harry and Meghan Markle asked the public to donate to charities instead of sending wedding gifts. The causes they are passionate about include helping children with HIV, homelessness, hygiene programs for women in the slums of Mumbai, and bringing sport to disadvantaged youth.

    May 17, 2018 Fox News Channel

  • Recording artist Mariah Carey poses for a portrait in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 18, 2016

    What Mariah Carey's Bipolar Revelation Could Mean for Public Health

    Five-time Grammy winner Mariah Carey is being widely applauded for recently revealing she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2001. By openly talking about her mental health struggles, she is helping lift mental illness out of the shadows and bringing attention to how common mental illness can be.

    Apr 30, 2018

  • Milo Ventimiglia and the rest of the cast receive the award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series for This Is Us at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, January 21, 2018

    The Season Finale of 'This Is Us' Offers an Important Public Health Lesson

    The TV series "This Is Us" shows how health is not only affected by individuals' decisions, but also by the larger contexts in which they live. These social determinants of health include income, quality of housing, and access to health care.

    Mar 23, 2018 Scientific American

  • A nurse prepares a man to donate blood

    Revisiting Restrictions on Blood Donations from Gay and Bisexual Men

    The FDA does not accept blood from male donors who have had sex with a man in the last 12 months. Is this restriction supported by scientific evidence? Or, is it related to lingering stigma and discrimination related to HIV/AIDS?

    Jul 5, 2016 U.S. News & World Report

  • Cast members Amber Heard (left), Eddie Redmayne (center), and Alicia Vikander pose during the premiere of "The Danish Girl" in Los Angeles, California, November 21, 2015

    At the 2016 Oscars, Transgender Health Issues Are in the Spotlight

    By inviting 'The Danish Girl' to Hollywood's most prestigious awards party, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is helping to shine a spotlight on transgender issues – and reflecting a larger cultural moment at the same time.

    Feb 26, 2016 U.S. News & World Report

  • Actor Charlie Sheen on the set of the NBC Today show in New York City, November 17, 2015

    Charlie Sheen and the Enduring Stigma Attached to HIV

    HIV-related stigma and discrimination remains pervasive despite strides that have been made in fighting the disease. Charlie Sheen reported paying more than $10 million in bribes to keep his HIV status secret before going public recently to put an end to the extortion.

    Dec 29, 2015