Health Behavior Snapshot

Hello, prospective students! Welcome to our brief overview Health Behavior at UNC Gillings. 

Students converse during a Capstone poster session.

Students converse during a Capstone poster session.

Our 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 are among the oldest and largest such departments in a school of public health in the world. Among other claims to fame, we are the interventions home for a top school of public health in a U.S. “public ivy” university. Our faculty members include experts in behavioral science, communications, health education, international health, medicine, medical sociology and social psychology.

Interested in finding out more? Visit our full department website

By the numbers

17 tenure-track/tenured faculty

6 research faculty

3 academic fixed-term

58 adjunct faculty


  • 103 MPH
  • 11 MSPH-to-PhD
  • 37 PhD
  • 2 dual MPH/MSCR (Master of Science in City and Regional Planning)
Our faculty

Our faculty has research and training strengths in:

  • Health communication;
  • Community engagement;
  • Interpersonal and social processes in health and illness;
  • Prevention, early detection and management of chronic and infectious diseases; and
  • Promotion of healthy lifestyles and reducing health risks.

Discover more on ReachNC, a web portal with to-the-minute information about our faculty members’ grants, publications, research interests and  networks.

Contact us

For general questions regarding the department, degrees or admissions, contact:

HB Student Services

In Health Behavior at Gillings, we:

  • Develop, implement and evaluate behavioral and social change interventions that strengthen communities and improve individuals’ health.
  • Assess, design, monitor and advocate for evidence-based policies and programs that impact health.
Health Behavior at Gillings had everything I was looking for: excellent faculty, interesting student colleagues and a great environment.
"Health Behavior's excellent courses, mentors, and opportunities to get involved have given me excellent preparation for my future in public health."
Alexis Dennis, FHI 360 Fellow, second year MPH student

North Carolina, across the United States, and around the world. Active studies in all these locales give students the chance to work with faculty to:

  • Investigate causes, consequences and strategies to prevent and manage cancer, cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, injuries and interpersonal violence.
  • Develop and assess policies and programs focused on tobacco control, obesity reduction, increasing physical activity, reducing risky sexual behavior and preventing violence.
  • Create interventions to promote health across the life course, from adolescents to older adults, for men and for women.
  • Devise programs, including those that draw on peer support, lay health advisors and community-based participatory methods, for reducing health disparities and protecting the health of vulnerable populations.
  • Evaluate interventions and policies that create safe, healthier communities, schools and worksites.
  • Conduct research on effective health communication methods and social media messages.
  • and much more…..


Esther Majani (MPH 2011) and Megan Clarke (MPH 2011)

MPH students Esther Majani and Megan Clarke chat after class. Both graduated in 2011. Esther is now a program officer with EngenderHealth in Tanzania; Megan is the rural sexual assault response team coordinator at the NC Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Master of Public Health (MPH): A two-year terminal degree program that provides students with training in social and behavioral science theory, research and practice through core courses, community-based fieldwork, professional development and career support. Students use a social ecological framework to study, develop and evaluate interventions and policies to promote health, prevent disease and injury, and reduce health disparities. The MPH program in Health Behavior prepares students for leadership positions in a wide range of public health settings.

Dual Master of Public Health/City and Regional Planning (MPH/MCRP). A three-year program that provides students with the skills and knowledge to apply social and behavioral science methods to shape the social and physical environment in ways that enhance public health and well-being.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD): Prepares students to lead research that will advance understanding of health-related behaviors and their determinants at all social levels as they contribute to critical public health problems. Doctoral students gain skills and knowledge in the empirical, conceptual and theoretical foundations of the field, research methods, intervention development and evaluation, and professional development topics. Graduates apply their training to research focused on domestic and global public health problems.

Master of Science in Public Health to Doctor of Philosophy (MSPH-to-PhD). Prepares students as public health researchers in health behavior. The curriculum focuses initially on core competencies in public health and health behavior, resulting in the MSPH degree. Students then complete all the requirements for the PhD in Health Behavior.


Nicole Bates holds two Gillings degrees: an MPH in Health Behavior and a DrPH in Health Policy and Management. She is  now a Senior Program Officer for Global Health Policy and Advocacy with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Where will a degree in Health Behavior take you? Our alumni hold senior leadership positions in the U.S. and around the world in:

  • Nonprofit organizations large and small, including FHI 360, RTI, Westat, Planned Parenthood, rape crisis centers, HIV/AIDS service organizations, and LGBT outreach organizations
  • Colleges and universities
  • State health departments and global ministries
  • Global NGOs, including Oxfam, Doctors without Borders, Care, and Save the Children
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • National Institutes of Health
  • Hospitals and health systems

Recent alumni positions for master’s prepared graduates include:

  • Senior Analyst, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
  • Evaluation Fellow, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • HIV Contract Manager, Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Health
  • Program and Evaluation Consultant, Comprehensive Rural Health Project
  • Senior Research Analyst, Futures Group International
  • Behaviorist, MicroMass Communications
  • Senior Program Analyst, National Association of County and City Health Officials
  • Community Health Educator, Penn State University

Recent alumni positions for doctorally prepared graduates include:

  • Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Austin Department of Kinesiology
  • Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina at Greensboro Department of Public Health Education
  • Research Assistant Professor, Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy, Eshelman School of Pharmacy, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS, Yale University
  • Research Associate, RTI International
  • Senior Advisor, Monitoring and Evaluation, Save the Children USA

Interested in finding out about our course offerings?

Faculty in health behavior create a welcoming, interactive classroom environment in  twenty-first century teaching facilities and research facilities. What’s more, we have plenty of quiet nooks and wired spaces to meet, collaborate, and take problem solving to the next level.

Take a look at our complete course catalog, plus syllabi, to find out more.


Students in Health Behavior enjoy a break from classes on a warm winter day.

Interested in finding out more? Visit our department website.