Gillings School Directory

Liz Chen, PhD, MPH

Liz Chen

Liz Chen, PhD, MPH

Assistant Professor
Department of Health Behavior
MPH Concentration Lead, Health Behavior
Department of Health Behavior
Design Thinking Lead
Innovate Carolina
  • 358A Rosenau Hall
  • 135 Dauer Drive
  • Chapel Hill, NC 27599
  • USA

Liz Chen is an assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior and also serves as the Health Behavior MPH Concentration Lead. Dr. Chen has a decade of experience as a teacher, public health practitioner, and researcher and earned both her MPH and PhD degrees in this department. Dr. Chen’s research interests are at the intersection of adolescent health, technology and design thinking. Her current research focuses on understanding the acceptability of health applications (i.e. apps) among adolescents to ensure that health apps developed for adolescent populations are more likely to be adopted in the real world. Dr. Chen, a native of Westwood, MA, served as a high school science teacher through Teach For America before starting her public health training. She was also named to the 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 class for Social Entrepreneurship for her work in developing and launching the Real Talk storytelling app for teens.

Representative Courses

HBEH 752: Public Health Evaluation | Syllabus

Research Activities

In 2016, Dr. Chen co-founded a technology nonprofit called MyHealthEd, Inc., whose mission is to use human-centered design (i.e. design thinking) to improve the health and well-being of youth of every identity. Their first product, Real Talk, is a mobile app for teens ages 13 to 17 to learn more about topics including relationships, bullying and puberty through crowdsourced stories. The app was developed using design thinking methodologies and was launched in September 2017. Since then, Real Talk has reached more than 10,000 across all U.S. states and more than 100 countries.

Dr. Chen also serves as the Design Thinking Lead for Innovate Carolina (i.e. UNC’s Office of Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development). She leads campus-wide design thinking trainings and works with UNC faculty, staff and students to integrate design thinking mindsets and methodologies into their research, teaching, and practice.

Service Activities

Dr. Chen also serves on the statewide myFutureNC commission that is working to create a multi-year plan and broad-based agenda for a stronger, more competitive North Carolina alongside educators, industry leaders and policymakers. The commission's work will ensure that by 2030, 2 million North Carolinians have a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential.

Key Publications

Enhancing Community-Based Participatory Research Through Human-Centered Design Strategies. Chen, E., Leos, C., Kowitt, S. D., & Moracco, K. E. (2019). Health Promotion Practice.

“You Can Do it Anywhere”: Student and Teacher Perceptions of an Online Sexuality Education Intervention. Chen, E., & Barrington, C.  (2017). American Journal of Sexuality Education.

A Systematic Review of Apps using Mobile Criteria for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (mCAPP). Chen, E. & Mangone, E. R. (2016). JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 4(4).

‘I learned to accept every part of myself’: the transformative impact of a theatre-based sexual health and HIV prevention programme. Grewe, M. E., Taboada, A., Dennis, A., Chen, E., Stein, K., Watson, S., ... & Lightfoot, A. F.  (2015). Sex education, 15(3), 303-317.


PhD, Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health, 2019

MPH, Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health, 2014

BA, Anthropology, Princeton University, 2010

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