Health Behavior

Laura Villa Torres, passionate about sexual and reproductive health, migration, critical theories and social justice and human rights frameworks. Read more about Laura.

Message from the Chair
"Our department aims to foster an environment where future public health leaders gain the knowledge and tools from experts in the field in order to create a healthier and more vibrant world." Read more.
Leslie Lytle, PhD
Professor and Chair

The health behavior department combines the social and behavioral sciences with health education to deliver practical research and solutions that improve the health of individuals and communities Established in 1942, we were the first Department of Public Health Education created  in the U.S. We are proud to build on the Department’s history of activism since 1942.

Faculty Research Interests in Well-Known and Emerging Areas:

Our faculty lead and conduct research  across a wide range of interests, working collaboratively with partners locally, across the country and globally.  Among our research strengths are:

  • Adolescent health
  • Community-based participatory research
  • Early detection and management of disease
  • Health communication
  • Health disparity reduction
  • HIV/AIDS prevention and control
  • Obesity, diabetes and weight-related behaviors
  • Tobacco control and regulation
  • Violence prevention
  • Worker and workplace health promotion

Health Behavior by the Numbers
  • 56 Doctoral
  • 94 Master's
  • 2 Degrees
  • 10 Certificates
  • 43 Courses
  • 1 Practicum for MPH students
  • 1 Capstone project (yearlong) for MPH students
  • 2 Practica for PhD students
  • 31 Core
  • 60 Adjunct
Average Class Size
  • 58 in MPH classes
  • 12 in Doctoral classes
  • 2,000 and counting
  • (Data as of July 2015)
Our students

In our midst are social scientists, Peace Corps volunteers, clinicians, activists, educators, entrepreneurs and researchers. Our students come from across North Carolina and around the world and they range from millennial to mid-career.

All Our Master’s Students Complete a Practicum and Capstone Project

Every MPH student completes a 240-hour-long summer practicum and a year-long Capstone Project that prepares students for the jobs they want. Hands-on practice that builds on coursework is a hallmark of our program. This requirement makes the program unique among schools of public health, and the mentoring and relationships built with our partners through the practicum and Capstone Project are highly valued by our students. It’s a win-win where our students and our partners in the practicum sites both benefit from the experience.

Our Doctoral Students Learn Research Skills from Renowned Faculty Working on Research that Matters

Doctoral students work with our remarkable faculty to design, conduct, analyze and publish research that pushes the field of public health forward. Our alumni lead research projects and guide the work of organizations that improve the health of individuals and communities through research, policy, health systems, advocacy, and service.

Students Join Our Network of Community Partners and Alumni

Before they even graduate, our students’ work with our partners makes a difference locally in North Carolina, in other states or in an international settings. Most doctoral students, working with faculty, lead research projects and are co-authors on research publications while still in school.

When students become alumni, they join a network of professionals who are changing the field of public health and changing the lives of individuals and populations.

Check out the Gillings Program Search, read about Our Students, see Top Reasons to Apply, or use the Apply link to learn about the application process, requirements and key dates.

We are always interested in talking with prospective students or potential community partners and hearing from our alumni. Find us on Twitter and Facebook.

What our students say

Choosing a graduate program is a big decision

We asked our students what factors played a role in making the decision to enroll in the Department of Health Behavior in our annual student survey in spring 2015.  83 MPH students and 40 doctoral students responded to that question and here’s what they said

Important Dates and Deadlines

Dates for New Students

  • August 17, 2015: Gillings Schoolwide Welcome
  • August 17:  For New Health Behavior Students: Program Welcome, Advising, Orientation to Student Resources, Student Panels and more.

Dates for Prospective Students

Application for all programs will be live online

  • September 1, 2015

PHD Applicants

  • December 1, 2015: SOPHAS
  • December 15, 2015: Apply Yourself

   MSPH-to-PhD Applicants

  • December 1, 2015: SOPHAS
  • December 15, 2015: Apply Yourself

MPH Applicants

Deadline for priority funding consideration for MPH students

  • December 1, 2015: SOPHAS
  • December 15, 2015: SOPHAS

Final deadlines for MPH students

  • January 2, 2015: SOPHAS
  • January 12, 2016: Apply Yourself

For more information:

Applying to Health Behavior at Gillings

Admissions FAQ