Health Behavior

Sally Herndon (MPH, 1980), head of the Tobacco Prevention and Control Branch in the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health receives the Harriet Hylton Barr Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Award from Kurt Ribisl, professor and chair.
Message from the Chair
The health behavior faculty and I wish our new graduates the very best and hope they will always feel a warm connection to the Department of Health Behavior. This will be my last letter to you as chair. As many of you know, I have opted not to continue for a second five-year term as chair, so I can resume my work in research and public health practice. Read more
Dr. Leslie Lytle
In the Department of Health Behavior, students develop the skills they need to be community change agents for issues they care about, including violence, obesity, cancer, HIV, policy change and disparities that undermine public health locally and globally.

Established in 1942, UNC’s Department of Public Health Education was the first program of its kind in the United States. Read about our history.


Our faculty and students are active researchers  in North Carolina, the U.S. and globally with many studies focusing upon these issues:

-Community health
-Violence prevention
-Policy change
-HIV/AIDS prevention and control
-Health disparities reduction
-Health communication / mHealth
-Obesity and diabetes management
-Tobacco control
-Workplace health promotion

Degree Programs

Master of Public Health

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

Tour the master’s program: Master’s Program  |  MPH Practicum  |  MPH Capstone  | Dual Degree MPH/MCRP Apply | Program Handbook

Doctor of Philosophy

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

Tour the doctoral program: Doctoral ProgramResearch | Recent Dissertations |MSPH-to-PhD | Apply | Program Handbook

Learn More

We encourage prospective students to review the information about our programs here on the website, to check out the Health Behavior News from Gillings and the student news from our department’s e-newsletter: Spring 2016 and Fall 2016. If you need other information, use the Inquiry form.

Featured Student Work

Transnational networks and health

Laura Villa Torres and Dr. Clare Barrington

Laura Villa Torres and Dr. Clare Barrington

Laura Villa-Torres, doctoral student, and Associate Professor Clare Barrington’s recent article reviewed research on migrants’ health practices and behaviors that considered a transnational perspective. “For migrants who can’t travel back to their countries,” Villa-Torres said, “the transnational networks become crucial, as they provide migrants with information, remedies and medicines and facilitate access to health providers in their countries of origin via telecommunications. However, the extent of these practices and how they impact migrants’ health requires more exploration.” The Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica in Cuernavaca, Mexico was instrumental in this work. Read the story

Poster displayed at WHO’s Global Forum on Medical Devices

Ryan Seguin (MPH, 2017) (center) with Dean Rimer, Lauren Wall and Dr. Anna Schenck

Ryan Seguin (MPH, 2017) (center) with Dean Rimer, Lauren Wall and Dr. Anna Schenck

Ryan Seguin (MPH, 2017)  is the co-author of a poster on MiracleFeet’s affordable clubfoot brace that was displayed at the World Health Organization’s 3rd Global Forum on Medical Devices in Geneva in May. (Read more) The poster is a result of the practicum Ryan completed with his preceptor Lauren Wall, Senior Innovation Manager at MiracleFeet. Community partners like MiracleFeet are essential to the health behavior program at UNC.

Student-led nonprofit wins Kenan funding

Camille McGirt (MPH, 2017)

Camille McGirt (MPH, 2017)

The Kenan Charitable Trust grant will provide $25,000 per year for two years to help Healthy Girls Save the World complete its first extensive program evaluation and cover operating expenses for pilot after-school and expanded summer camp programs. Camille McGirt, (MPH, 2017) is the director and co-founder of the program. McGirt established the program as an undergraduate, at a time when she was sidelined from sports because of an injury. She wanted to stay active and help other girls develop and maintain healthy lifestyles. Her stint in the Obama White House left her convinced that she wanted to continue in public service.  Read the story

Colorectal cancer screening among African-Americans

Leslie Adams and Jennifer Richmond, doctoral students

Leslie Adams and Jennifer Richmond, doctoral students

Leslie B. Adams and Jennifer Richmond, doctoral students, and Wizdom Powell, PhD, associate professor are authors of an article in the Journal of Community Health. They explored the link between medical mistrust  and colorectal cancer  screening rates among African-Americans. The review also focused on gender differences related to medical mistrust and found key distinctions in themes of mistrust between African-American men and women. Read more

Willa Dong heads to China; six master’s students will complete the practicum in global health

Willa Dong, doctoral student

Willa Dong, doctoral student

“I am looking forward to being mentored by a team with such extensive experience with communities disproportionately impacted by HIV,” says Willa Dong, whose dissertation research will focus on the mental health and HIV needs of transgender women in China. Willa, a health behavior doctoral student from Gaithersburg Maryland, has been engaged with sexual health including transgender health, STIs and HIV in China and in the U.S. since 2012. This summer Willa will work as a research assistant with Dr. Joseph T.F. Lau, a professor in the Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Willa’s adviser is Kate Muessig, PhD, assistant professor of health behavior.

Promoting equity in the Department of Health Behavior

Varsha Subramanyam, Willa Dong, Ashley Crawford, Waru Gichane and Ida Griesemer

Varsha Subramanyam, Willa Dong, Ashley Crawford, Waru Gichane and Ida Griesemer

The Equity Collective, a student group in the Department of Health Behavior, has met bi-weekly this semester [spring 2017] to develop strategies to create a more equitable health behavior community.

The group’s mission is to work to create, promote and sustain equity in the Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Department of Health Behavior for the benefit of all prospective and current students, faculty and staff. Read more


Da'Esha McPhaul, student services manager, greets students at an event in 2016.

Da'Esha McPhaul, student services manager, greets students at an event in 2016.


October 6:

  • Graduate Program Open House at Gillings
  • Annual Practicum Day Celebration at Gillings

Gillings School Events Calendar

UNC Academic Calendar: 2016 – 2017 and 2017 -2018

The North Carolina Institute for Public Health hosts a poster session where students share research that impacts our state.

The North Carolina Institute for Public Health hosts a poster session where students share research that impacts our state.

Heath Behavior Mattersour e-newsletter. The spring/summer issue is available online. Subscribe  to receive future issues by email.

Health Behavior Newsfeed – News about health behavior faculty and staff as it is posted by the Gillings School. Scroll to see older stories.

Gillings School Newsfeed – ALL the news from the Gillings School.


Health behavior alumni at the career day they sponsored in 2017

See our Health Behavior Alumni web page.
Search for health behavior alumni on the UNC alumni list on LinkedIn
Join the health behavior alumni group on LinkedIn

Activate your profile on the Gillings School’s WellConnected network. Then you can update your information, and see jobs and notices posted by other Gillings alumni.