Health Behavior

This health behavior Capstone team (Amanda Kong, Christina Villella, Aly Bancroft, Alex Coombs and Dirk Davis) collaborated with the Durham County Department of Public Health to identify smoke-free air policy best practices and to assess knowledge and compliance with the implementation of the 2012 Board of Health Smoking Rule, which prohibits smoking in some public areas in an effort to reduce secondhand smoke. Read more about Capstone.
Message from the Chair
The recently passed House Bill 2 is of grave concern to me. As an educator, researcher and administrator, it is critically important to me that all students, staff, faculty and the larger community are treated with respect, valued for their differences, and offered equal rights and privileges. I hope the good people of North Carolina are successful in getting this law repealed.
Leslie Lytle, PhD,
professor and chair

Welcome new students!

Information for new students icon

The Department of Health Behavior combines the social and behavioral sciences with health science to produce graduates who deliver practical research and interventions that improve the health of individuals and communities. Established in 1942, UNC’s Department of Public Health Education was the first program of its kind in the United States.

Master of Public Health (MPH) program

The master’s program offers students the core education and practical experience they need to become successful public health professionals. Master’s students earn one of two degrees: the Master of Public Health (MPH) or the Dual Master of Public Health and Master of City and Regional Planning (MPH-MCRP).

Master’s Program  |  MPH Practicum  |  MPH Capstone  | Apply

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program

Doctoral programs prepare students to lead and conduct research providing strong research methodology courses and many student research opportunities. Some students enter directly into the PhD program, others enter the Master’s-to-Doctoral program (MSPH-PhD) acquiring core public health and health behavior competencies and completing all the requirements for the PhD.

Doctoral Program | Research | Recent Dissertations | Publications |  Apply

We encourage prospective students to review the information about our programs here on the website, to read the Health Behavior News from Gillings, and to check the more  informal notes we post on Facebook. If you need other information, use the prospective student inquiry form.

Open-rank faculty positions

The Department of Health Behavior seeks to hire up to three open rank tenure-track faculty. We are interested in colleagues who can facilitate and contribute to the applied research of the current faculty as well as establish their own research programs. Strong methodological and analytical expertise is preferred. Candidates should have interest and ability in teaching at the graduate level. See position posting and apply through UNC Human Resources. Read the position announcement.

Featured news from students, faculty and alumni

Health Behavior Matters

HB_SubscribeThe July 2016 issue of our e-newsletter is a roundup of news from academic year 2015-2016. Chair Leslie Lytle comments on what reviewers had to say about the department as part of the 2016 graduate program review. Other stories focus upon faculty, alumni and student news. Read the current issue.

Dr. Wizdom Powell

Dr. Wizdom Powell

Wizdom Powell, PhD, associate professor of health behavior at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, was selected July 12 to receive one of the Aspen Institute’s second annual Health Innovators Fellowships.

The Institute, a nonpartisan forum for values-based leadership and the exchange of ideas, is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

Powell was one of 21 health-care professionals from across the U.S. chosen to participate in the two-year fellowship, which is designed to strengthen participants’ leadership skills and challenge them to develop new approaches to improve the health and well-being of all Americans.

Dr. Alexandra Lightfoot (headshot)

Dr. Alexandra Lightfoot

Alexandra Lightfoot, EdD, research assistant professor of health behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, is one of 10 faculty members at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill selected for the sixth class of Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars.

The scholars will develop projects in partnership with community organizations including Durham’s Historic Stagville, where they will study the skills and expertise of enslaved laborers, and Chatham County’s The Farm at Penny Lane, where they aim to improve housing and other community-based services for individuals with severe and persistent mental illness.

Chen_May_2016May Chen, doctoral student at UNC Gillings, has been named Janssen Therapeutics Point Scholar and is one of 21 Point Scholars for 2016. The Point Scholars program provides multifaceted support, including a financial award, leadership development and paired mentoring. The Point Foundation is the nation’s largest scholarship-granting organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students of merit.

Born and raised in San Francisco, California, Chen’s work represents a lifelong commitment to serve and support marginalized communities touched by violence. She is a first-generation college student and completed a B.A. at Wellesley College. She earned a Master of Science in public health (MSPH) at Gillings where her thesis explored individual- and family-level factors impacting teen dating violence. Read more about May Chen.

News and Events

Health Behavior News  is a running list of news about health behavior faculty and students from the Gillings School.

Facebook includes departmental news and events, general news stories of interest and informal notes of interest to our community.

Health Behavior Matters is our quarterly newsletter. Read the current issue a roundup of faculty, student and and alumni from academic year 2015-2016 and features several alumni.


Da'Esha McPhaul, student services manager for health behavior, greets admitted students at Experience Gillings 2016.

 Find Sudent Resources: program handbooks and other essential resources

Gillings’ Application Process

Apply to Health Behavior


Gillings Program Search Search the Gillings School’s degree and non-degree programs.


Amy Lansky leads White House Office of National AIDS Policy.

James Thrasher wins WHO’s No Tobacco Day Award

Linda Ko leads childhood obesity research in Washington state.

Katherine Turner advocates for women, girls and youth at  Women Deliver.

Jed Hinkley improving access to food in eastern North Carolina.

Hannah Prentice-Dunn, is president of the health behavior branch of the Gillings alumni association. Read her message.