Health Behavior

MPH alum Greg Millett (second from left) discusses the White House's National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which he co-wrote, with President Obama and other HIV/AIDS policy experts. Our alumni network spans the country. Read More
For Prospective Students
Message from the Chair
This is the most invigorating time of the school year for me as traffic picks up in the halls of Rosenau. The students are back! Possibility is in the air! Read more
Leslie Lytle, PhD
Professor and Chair

The Department of Health Behavior combines the social and behavioral sciences with health science 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.

Degree Programs

We offer the MPH and PhD degrees and a dual-degree program with the Department of City and Regional Planning. Our programs offer students pursuing an MPH degree the core education and practical experience through the MPH practicum and Health Behavior Capstone that  they need to be successful public health professionals. Our doctoral students leave well prepared to lead and conduct research.

Research and Faculty

Faculty of the Department conduct research to answer the questions that help us understand what we can do to reduce health risks, to promote healthy lives, and to increase the number of individuals who are able to benefit from known and emerging medical science. Read about our research strengths and faculty research interests or visit Health Behavior Matters, our rolling roundup of research publications from faculty and students published in 2015.

Feature: Capstone Project

October 2015

The strength of the MPH in Health Behavior is the application of what we learn in class through the practicum and Capstone project. (Alumni Survey, 2015)

Mary Kate Shapley-Quinn and Julia Katz recruit early voters to complete surveys at the Seymour Center as part of their capstone project with the Orange County Department on Aging

Mary Kate Shapley-Quinn and Julia Katz recruit early voters to complete surveys at the Seymour Center as part of their capstone project with the Orange County Department on Aging

Theme: Aging Preparedness

Faculty Adviser: Susan Ennett

Partner: Orange County Department on Aging

Graduate students in UNC’s Department of Health Behavior’s MPH program have worked with the Orange County Department on Aging (OCDOA) for several years, completing both the practicum and the Capstone requirements for graduation. In 2011, a Capstone team created the Orange County Master Aging Plan (MAP) and in the following years, students have helped to implement aspects of this 5-year plan.

A 2015-2016 Capstone team is continuing this work.  Their goal is to increase aging preparedness behaviors in Orange County adults aged 50-70.

Read more about the project and what our community partner has to say.

News and Events

Hillary Murphy, Master of Public Health student. An Unexpected path for practicum experience “This practicum helped build my skills in program implementation and tailoring – and gave me a deep love for sub-Saharan Africa. Most importantly was a reminder to be open to unexpected experiences. There is no way to know what your true passions are unless you welcome opportunities that are out of your element.” Read more

2015 Gillings School Practicum Day: Reflections from the Field Friday, November 20, 2015 1-4 p.m. Read More

Alexandra Lightfoot, EdD, research assistant professor wins Tom Bruce Award. Read More

Noel Brewer, PhD, associate professor, and colleagues publish findings about physicians and HPV vaccine.  Read More

Postdoctoral Training Opportunity with the Cancer Health Disparities Training Program in Health Behavior. The program is open to 1-3 doctoral trainees.  Read More  Applications due by January 29, 2016.

Read Other Featured News

What our Students Say

98% of health behavior graduates were highly satisfied with their experience in the Department of Health Behavior. (Exit Interview Data)

“The best thing about Health Behavior grads is that they can work on anything–strong capabilities across the board.” (Alumni Survey 2015)

“The overall curriculum and assignments are cohesive and strong.”  (Alumni Survey 2015)

“The faculty is truly incredible, not only as academic researchers, but as instructors and mentors.” (Student Survey 2015)

“The Health Behavior program has given me an incredible amount of opportunities to work directly with community members on pressing public health problems.” Sarah Kowitt, doctoral student. Read about her recent research

Top 10 reasons students came to Carolina (student survey, 2015)

Sarah Treves-Kagan tells why she chose to study in the Department of Health Behavior at Gillings.


Basic Information


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.

Community-Engaged Scholarship 

Every MPH student completes a 240-hour-long summer practicum and a year-long capstone course built around a project in which students apply what they have learned in class.  They work in groups with partners to meet partner’s needs.  The capstone experience is unique among MPH programs, and the mentoring and relationships built with our partners through the practicum and capstone are highly valued by our students.

MPH practicum  –   Health Behavior Capstone

Our doctoral students learn research skills from renowned faculty

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.

Our MSPH-to-PhD students develop core and research skills

The MSPH-to-PhD program is designed for students with a bachelor’s degree who want to pursue a doctoral degree and career in research.

MPH/MCRP dual-degree

Students earn credentials in public health and City and Regional Planning. They learn to apply social and behavioral science methods to shape the social and physical environment in ways that promote public health, safety and livability in communities.