Health Behavior Department Overview

Lucy quote v2

Welcome to the Department of Health Behavior!

We are proud to be situated in the #1 public health school at a public university (as recognized by US News and World Report). Our dedication to discover, develop and disseminate knowledge that promotes health is a key reason for how our department brings together some of the brightest minds.

Click on the below headlines for more information about who we are and our approach to research and learning.


More Than 70 Years of Improving Public Health

Eleanor Roosevelt guest speaks to a class in 1950.

Eleanor Roosevelt guest speaks to a class in 1950.

In 1942 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Lucy S. Morgan, PhD, founded the nation’s first graduate training program in public health education. This program is now known as the Department of Health Behavior. Lucy, who also served as chair for more than two decades, strongly believed in the right of every individual to be healthy. Throughout her storied career, Lucy made enormous contributions to the field both regionally and worldwide as an innovator in public health education and an advisor to the World Health Organization. Her passion for improving communities is a common thread throughout the Department that our faculty, students and staff truly embrace.

Seven decades later since its inception, Lucy would have been proud to know that the Department’s international reputation for premier graduate training programs and research is going strong. The Department has helped reshape the public health field by changing the way public health professionals understand disease and promote health. More than 2,000 highly trained students have graduated from our programs and alumni occupy leadership positions across the nation and around the world, helping individuals and communities become healthier. Faculty members continue to conduct important research to study health determinants, interventions and policies that result in positive behavior change.

For more about the Department’s history, see our historical timeline.


A Commitment to Educational Excellence

HB Parth Shah with other docs classroom

The Department provides exceptional public health education through our various degree programs. We integrate a multidisciplinary approach to learning so that students gain a solid grounding in the various factors that contribute to health as well as develop the skill-sets necessary for solving modern public health challenges.

One of the hallmarks of our programs is a focus on field training where students gain experience working on real-world health problems. During their studies, MPH students are paired with organizations and research institutions to devise, implement and/or evaluate public health interventions. Doctoral students engage in research with faculty mentors. This hands-on learning approach allows students to apply their classroom education to existing issues affecting individuals and populations, sharpen their problem-solving and research skills, and work in various public health settings.


Growing the New Crop of Public Health Leaders

HB Bowdien and Carmody

Our dedication to serving the needs of our students results in the training of some of the most accomplished researchers and practitioners in the public health field. They leave our department with a deeper knowledge and strengthened abilities for preventing disease and promoting health. The majority of health behavior graduates attain meaningful employment within six months of graduation.

Alumni distinguish themselves worldwide. Many master’s and PhD graduates have gone on to start or head prestigious programs at government, private and nonprofit agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute. Doctoral alumni are especially sought after and employed at leading academic and research institutions. For more information, please visit our careers page.


Research with a Big Impact

HB Clare Barrington Advanced Qual Class

Our faculty members are united by their commitment to combine the disciplines of public health and health behavior with the social and behavioral sciences. Their research has shed light on many issues, including tobacco marketing, HPV vaccination and HIV/AIDS medication adherence. Faculty have also utilized and/or developed many innovative tools to improve health, such as peer support, micro-lending and interactive software programs. For more information, please visit our research page.


Focus on Achieving Diversity

MHC UNC Table 2014

By cultivating an inclusive environment, we are able to create a place where our individual differences make us stronger as a collective whole. We make a concerted effort to have students, faculty and staff who are racially, ethnically and economically diverse, as well as recruit individuals regardless of disability, sexual orientation, age and religion. Our students come from a wide range of work experiences and educational backgrounds, and nearly a third are racial and ethnic minorities. We encourage you to read the School’s Diversity Statement. Additionally, the Department follows and supports the University’s policy on prohibited harassment and discrimination.


Fostering Close Ties with the Community

HB MHC Planning Committee

The Department has an expanding list of partnerships within the community. In addition to working with other departments in the School and University, research centers are frequent collaborators on research studies such as the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Injury Prevention Research Center and the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

We also maintain relationships with local/state/federal government agencies, nonprofits and for-profit companies in North Carolina and around the world. These connections regularly result in meaningful experiences for our students to engage in projects both inside and outside of the classroom. They also often lead to networking opportunities and employment for current students and graduates.