Health Behavior Research

Suzanne Maman, PhD, works with project staffers.

Research at the Department of Health Behavior focuses on social and behavior change in order to improve the lives of people in North Carolina and around the world.

Health behavior faculty members conduct research that is changing the way some of the biggest public health challenges of our time are viewed and solved. Faculty form interdisciplinary research teams to understand how unhealthy behaviors and disease manifest, and they apply rigorous, cutting-edge methods to study, implement, and evaluate interventions and policies. Their research results in innovative solutions and positive behavior change that improves health locally, nationally and internationally. Additionally, reducing health disparities and protecting the health of vulnerable populations remains a priority that is interwoven through much of our research.

Faculty study risk reduction and health promotion in a variety of areas. View a list of faculty research interests by topic or click on an area below to see highlights:

Adolescent health

Community-based participatory research

  • In 2012, Professor Geni Eng published the second edition of Methods for Community-Based Participatory Research for Health, which features a foreword by former U.S. Surgeon General, David Satcher. Dr. Eng currently conducts CBPR in several areas, including HIV risk reduction among immigrant Latino men in North Carolina
  • Research Associate Professor Lori Carter Edwards published a guide for engaging faith-based communities in Lead the Way: Principles and Practices in Community and Civic Engagement. The chapter explains the history and importance of faith-based communities in health promotion and discusses a multidimensional approach for engaging faith-based organizations

Early detection and management of disease

  • Associate Professor Noel Brewer’s research on the HPV vaccine has helped eliminate myths and “bad science” from the vaccine debate and boosted vaccine use
  • The Cancer Health Disparities Training Program, administered through the Department, offers 1-3 qualified postdoctoral trainees a specialized curriculum that fosters multidisciplinary understanding of cancer health disparities. The program prepares trainees to move into faculty positions in cancer and health disparity reduction research

Health communication

  • Associate Professor Noel Brewer co-authored the FDA-published Communicating Risks and Benefits: An Evidence-Based User’s Guide. The free book summarizes what is known about risk communication for practitioners and helps them formulate risk communication plans
  • Research Associate Professor Christine Rini conducts work that significantly contributes to the transdisciplinary area of health communication. Rini and colleagues are examining factors that influence patients’ understanding of incidental genetic information, such as how they decide to accept or decline receiving test results and the behavioral, emotional and cognitive consequences of these decisions

Health disparity reduction

  • Professor Geni Eng is researching the impact of technologic tools to improve the healthcare of African American breast and lung cancer patients through the Accountability for Cancer Care through Undoing Racism and Equity (ACCURE) study
  • Assistant Professor Wizdom Powell Hammond published a high profile piece in the American Journal of Public Health that suggests that the effects of racism may be strongest in men who suppress emotion. Dr. Powell was recently awarded an NIH K-award to study the psycho-biological mechanisms (masculinity, affect regulation and stress response) linking neighborhood conditions to problematic substance use/abuse among Black emerging adult males

HIV/AIDS prevention and control

  • “SafeTalk “motivational interviewing program, designed by Associate Professor Carol Golin, helps people living with HIV/AIDS adopt and maintain safer sexual practices and has been approved by the CDC
  • Assistant Professor Kate Muessig conducts research based in China on the development of evidence-based interventions that address the social, structural and behavioral factors that drive HIV and other sexually transmitted infections among at-risk groups, especially men who have sex with men, sex workers and racial and ethnic disparity populations
  • Findings from Associate Professor Vivian Go’s trial on the effects of an HIV peer prevention intervention on sexual and injecting risk behaviors among injecting drug users and their risk partners in Vietnam were published in Social Science and Medicine and were presented at the 2014 International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia

Obesity, diabetes and weight-related behaviors

Tobacco control and regulation

  • Professor Kurt Ribisl’s research on cigarette marketing practices has helped change laws nationwide on how and where tobacco products can be displayed and sold, which helps reduce the number of new smokers

Violence prevention

  • A new effort aimed at using microlending to young men to help reduce the spread of HIV and thwart gender-based violence is being pioneered by Associate Professor Suzanne Maman in Tanzania
  • Professor Vangie Foshee’s “Families for Safe Dates,” a family-based dating abuse prevention program, is required for communities participating in the CDC’s nationwide dating abuse prevention effort called “Dating Matters”

Worker and workplace health promotion

  • Carolina Collaborative for Research on Work and Health, directed by Professor Laura Linnan, is an initiative aimed at enhancing inter-disciplinary research to improve worksite wellness, especially among low-income adults

Using a multidisciplinary approach, our research focuses on:

  • The investigation of causes, consequences, and strategies to prevent and manage disease and injury
  • The design and implementation of evidence-based interventions and policies that promote healthy behaviors and are disseminated in various settings at multiple levels of the social ecology (e.g. individual, community, state and national)
  • The monitoring and evaluation of interventions and policies to determine their effectiveness in achieving desired health outcomes

Our faculty also translate best practices into policy guidelines for state and federal agencies.

Health behavior faculty are not only world-class researchers, they are also recognized for their ability to translate evidence-based research into policy and program guidelines and recommendations for federal, state and local officials.

  • Professor Carolyn Crump is supported and recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments nationwide for her work on training public health professionals on effective policy change and injury prevention
  • Professor Kurt Ribisl advised citywide initiatives on tobacco pricing and placement, including Mayor Bloomberg’s initiatives in New York
  • Professor Brewer produced a technical report on cervical cancer prevention efforts in North Carolina for his Cervical Cancer-Free NC project