Health Behavior Capstone

The Capstone is the cornerstone of the Master’s of Public Health (MPH) training program in the Department of Health Behavior. A combination of coursework and mentored fieldwork, the Capstone offers students the opportunity to synthesize and integrate knowledge acquired through academic studies and other learning experiences, such as the summer practicum, and apply that knowledge to a public health problem faced by a community organization or research team. Based on a long tradition of commitment to field work, it is a vital learning opportunity for our students.
Continuity with community partners
The benefits to both students and the community are innumerable. Read about a grant earned by this Capstone team from last year that will be used by this year's worksite wellness team.
Work Well, Live Well Capstone team


Over the course of Year 2 of the MPH program, teams of 4-6 students partner with a community organization or research team to work on a set of deliverables based on the “community partner’s” real-world needs. To the extent possible, Capstone projects meet the public health priorities of the community partner and its intended audience. The goal is for students to have a substantive learning experience, tackle real world public health problems, and get involved in as many of the following types of activities as possible over the two-semester experience:

  • Community engagement process and/or assessment efforts
  • Strategic or program planning
  • Curriculum development
  • Feasibility or pilot studies
  • Qualitative or formative research
  • Survey research
  • Health policy statement/advocacy
  • Policy analysis
  • Program evaluation
  • Grant writing
  • Plans for program dissemination and/or sustainability
  • Process or outcome evaluation or implementation analysis
  • Social marketing or campaign development
  • Intervention selection, development or implementation
  • Data analysis and reporting

Capstone in action


OCDOA Capstone team members pose with their community partners at Capstone Celebration Day, held each spring

One Capstone team partnered with the Orange County Department on Aging (OCDOA) to develop the county’s 2012-2017 Master Aging Plan (MAP)—a strategic plan for the future of a growing elderly population in the county. Over the summer, two practicum students had conducted a community assessment with county residents and identified five important areas for the MAP to address. The Capstone team then planned a community forum to generate additional topic areas of public interest with the help of OCDOA staff and Alyssa Roberts Bates. Topics from the summer community assessment and fall community forum were prioritized and streamlined to form five work group topics: Health and Wellness, Housing, Aging in Place, Navigation and Transportation, and Community Engagement. In partnership with OCDOA staff, the Capstone students each facilitated five work group meetings, each including 10-20 community members, county officials, and local professionals, and drafted the MAP objective, strategies and indicators. Having incorporated revisions from a month-long public comment period and various oversight committees, the final 2012-2017 MAP was presented to the Board of County Commissioners on May 1st. The Capstone team presented the MAP development process to the Governor’s Advisory Council on Aging, and the process has received coverage in The Daily Tar Heel and The Chapel Hill News.