Gillings School Directory

Sean Y. Sylvia, PhD

Dr. Sean Sylvia

Sean Y. Sylvia, PhD

Assistant Professor
Department of Health Policy and Management
  • 1101D McGavran-Greenberg Hall
  • CB #7411
  • Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7411

Sean Sylvia, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. As a health and development economist, Dr. Sylvia’s research focuses on designing and evaluating innovative approaches to improve the delivery of health services in developing countries. In past and ongoing projects, he has studied the design of performance-based incentives for providers, the implementation of school-based health and nutrition programs, community health worker interventions to improve early childhood health and development, and the measurement of and interventions to improve the quality of primary care in low-resource settings.

Fluent in Mandarin, Dr. Sylvia has long-standing collaborations with researchers at a number of universities in China where he has directed several large-scale surveys and randomized trials. Prior to joining UNC, he worked as an Assistant Professor in the School of Economics at Renmin University of China. He also previously worked for the World Bank and was a predoctoral fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. Dr. Sylvia received his PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of Maryland.

Sean Sylvia in the Gillings news

Research Activities

  • Health Economics
  • Econometrics
  • Impact Evaluation
  • Cost Effectiveness Analysis
  • Performance-based Contracts
  • Quality of Care
  • Nutrition
  • Early Childhood Development

Key Publications

Tuberculosis Detection and the Challenges of Integrated Care in Rural China: A Cross-sectional Standardized Patient Study.  Sean Sylvia, Hao Xue, Chengchao Zhou, Yaojaing Shi, Hongmei Yi, Huan Zhou, Scott Rozelle, Madhukar Pai, Jishnu Das (2017). PloS Medicine, 14(10), e1002405.

Impact of Text Message Reminders on Caregivers’ Adherence to a Home Fortification Program in Rural Western China: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial. Huan Zhou, Shuai Sun, Renfu Luo, Sean Sylvia, Ai Yue, Yaojiang Shi, Linxiu Zhang, Alexis Medina, and Scott Rozelle (2016). American Journal of Public Health, 106(7), 1256-1262.

China’s Left Behind Children: Impact of Parental Migration on Health, Nutrition, and Educational Outcomes. Chengchao Zhou, Sean Sylvia, Linxiu Zhang, Renfu Luo, Hongmei Yi, Chengfang Liu, Yaojiang Shi, Prashant Loyalka, James Chu, Alexis Medina and Scott Rozelle (2015). Health Affairs, 34(11), 1964–1971.

Survey using Incognito Standardized Patients Shows Poor Quality Care in China’s Rural Clinics. Sean Sylvia, Yaojiang Shi, Hao Xue, Xin Tian, Huan Wang, Qingmei Liu, Alexis Medina and Scott Rozelle (2015). Health Policy and Planning, 30(3), 322–333.

Effectiveness of Provider Incentives for Anaemia Reduction in Rural China: a Cluster Randomised Trial. Grant Miller, Renfu Luo, Linxiu Zhang, Sean Sylvia, Yaojiang Shi, Patricia Foo, Qiran Zhao, Reynaldo Martorell, Alexis Medina, and Scott Rozelle (2012). BMJ, 345.


BA, Economics and International Studies, University of Alabama, 2006

MS, Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Maryland, 2012

PhD, Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Maryland, 2014

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