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Health Behavior Practicum

Health behavior students complete the practicum working on a wide range of issues including refugee and immigrant health.

The practicum is an individualized, mentored and on-site learning experience that serves as a bridge between an MPH student’s academic training and applied public health practice. The practicum gives students an opportunity to:

  • Apply public health concepts and skills in a real-world setting
  • Contribute to the work and impact of a public health-related organization
  • Explore areas of professional interest, network and develop career goals
  • Observe and learn from professionals in the field
  • Gain feedback on professional skills and performance

Health behavior students complete a minimum of 240 practicum hours over the summer between their first and second years in the program. Practicums can occur anywhere approved for student travel, including both domestic and international settings, and can be paid or unpaid.

During the practicum, students are hosted by organizations that work with public health data, do planning, and/or provide some type of public health service or policy work and are mentored by a practicing public health professional with a master’s of public health or equivalent degree and experience. Topics are selected and the work is designed based on each student’s experience, abilities and interests, as well as the host agency’s needs. Students conduct a range of activities during their practicums including: qualitative and quantitative research, data analysis, program implementation and evaluation, materials development, communication and social media strategy, and grant writing.

Prior to and during the practicum experience, the department offers guidance and expertise, helping each student to find an appropriate placement, identify potential funding mechanisms and have a successful practicum experience.

Visit our Community Partners page

Are you interested in hosting a practicum student? If so, visit our Community Partners page.

Community partners are essential to health behavior students and to the program. They contribute over 23,000 hours of work to community partners each year.


Digital Health and the New World Practicum, summer 2016

Michael DeFranco

Michael DeFranco

As an emergency/trauma registered nurse, and a former member of the Ebola emergency response team at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Mike DeFranco (MPH 2017) considered himself well-informed about the Ebola outbreak: the suffering it caused and the epidemiology surrounding the spread of the disease.

While DeFranco was a master’s student in health behavior, he completed the MPH practicum requirement as an IntraHealth/UNC fellow. At IntraHealth, he learned how the Ebola epidemic led to a digital health innovation that allows Liberia’s Ministry of Health to receive information directly from health workers in the field and take prompt and appropriate action.

“Imagine a scenario where information—really important and meaningful information that could help millions of people—is stored in a way that makes it seemingly impossible to access. Even users within the same organization can’t share it with one another, not because it’s confidential, but because of the way their software is built.

DeFranco’s practicum mentor was Dave Potenziani, senior informatics officer at IntraHealth.

Read “Digital Health and the New World,” DeFranco’s blog post.

Selected Agencies hosting students in recent years

Active Living By Design (Chapel Hill, NC)
Advanced Wellness Systems (Raleigh, NC)
Center for Health Policy & Inequalities Research at Duke University (Durham, NC)
Center for Public Health Quality (Raleigh, NC)
Chatham County Public Health Department (Pittsboro, NC)
Clinton Foundation
Counter Tools (Carrboro, NC)
CounterTobacco.org (Carrboro, NC)
Feed the Children (Durham, NC and San Pedro Sula, Honduras)
FHI 360 (Durham, NC)
Friends of Residents in Long-Term Care (FORLTC) (Chapel Hill, NC)
Growing Change (Scotland County, NC)
IntraHealth International (Chapel Hill, NC)
MEASURE Evaluation (Chapel Hill, NC)
MicroMass Communications

North Carolina Division of Public Health
Orange County Department on Aging (Chapel Hill, NC)*
Prevention Partners (Chapel Hill, NC)
Project GRACE–Growing, Reaching, Advocating for Change and Empowerment (Chapel Hill, NC)
Self-Help (Durham, NC)
Student Wellness at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC)
UNC Center for Diabetes Translation Research (Chapel Hill, NC)
UNC Institute for Healthcare Quality Improvement (Chapel Hill, NC)
UNC School of Medicine (Chapel Hill, NC)
UNC Weight Research Program (Chapel Hill, NC)
UNC School of Medicine (Chapel Hill, NC)
UNC Department of Health Behavior (Chapel Hill, NC)
Women’s Global Health Imperative | RTI International (San Francisco, CA)
Youth Empowered Solutions (YES!) (Raleigh, NC)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Atlanta, GA)
Harry Potter Alliance (remote)
Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies (New Orleans, LA)
Kaiser Permanente (Pleasanton, CA)
National Association of Community Health Centers (Washington, DC)
National Council of La Raza
National Farm Medicine Center; The Marshfield Clinic (Marshfield, WI)
Obstetrics and Gynecology and Pediatrics University of Colorado, School of Medicine (Denver, CO, USA)
Prevention Institute (Oakland, CA)
United States Agency for International Development (Washington, DC)

Carolina for Kibera (Nairobi, Kenya)
Feed the Children (Durham, NC and San Pedro Sula, Honduras)
Helen Keller International
Minority Health International Research Training (MHIRT) Program at Christian Brothers University (Ishaka, Uganda)
Save the Children
John Snow, Inc.
Population Services International
Uganda Village Project
United States Agency for International Development Southern Africa Trade Hub (Gaborone, Botswana)
Universidad del Valle (Guatemala City, Guatemala)*