Do you…

  • Want to help communities solve challenges such as opioid addiction, obesity or HIV AIDS?
  • Believe in the power of behavioral science and research to identify health strategies that work?
  • Want to conduct research with world-class faculty members studying health behaviors?
  • Have a passion for equity and social justice?
  • Seek a career that involves working globally on public health issues?
  • See yourself as part of a team that accelerates social change?

There’s no better time

As our global population continues to increase, so do many of the health issues with which communities must grapple. Health behaviors and behavioral science can play an important role. The challenges can be daunting to contemplate – how can public health prevent HIV infections and end the HIV epidemic? What can be done to reduce interpersonal violence? How can we reduce the public health burden of opioids, obesity, diabetes and tobacco products? The world needs and wants evidence-based solutions and leaders who can literally make the planet a better, healthier place to live. Our students become those leaders, and the demand for this kind of change agent has never been greater.

Who we are and what we offer

The Gillings School of Public Health attracts individuals who believe in the power of evidence-based science, research and policies to create positive outcomes on a local, national and global basis. Our doctoral and master’s programs have curricula that we designed to empower the next generation of global public health leaders, researchers and change agents.

Our Master of Public Health (MPH) program offers a dozen areas of concentration, and the Department of Health Behavior is the academic home for three of them:

Health Behavior – Human Behavior is the cornerstone of public health. Research has shown that four health behaviors – tobacco use, diet, physical activity and alcohol consumption – are directly linked to 40% of premature deaths in the U.S. Addressing those behaviors has the potential to transform communities as well as the lives of individuals in powerful and positive ways. Our Health Behavior concentration focuses on the social and behavioral science that informs both policy and practice for public health programs, with a particular focus on working in communities.

Global Health – Our belief is that global health IS public health, and, as the Center for Disease Control has said, infectious disease knows no borders. Our curriculum is designed to give you the knowledge and skills needed to develop and analyze public health programs and projects that can work in today’s interconnected world and that are properly aligned with local cultures, context and resources. For this concentration that spans for the department, we also work closely with the Gillings Departments of Environmental Science and Engineering, Maternal and Child Health, and the Public Health Leadership Program.

Health Equity, Social Justice and Human Rights – How do we better understand, reduce and ultimately eliminate the societal and institutional disparities that affect the health and well being of communities? Working closely with the Gillings Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Science and Engineering, our students learn the quantitative, qualitative and community-engaged approaches that can inform public policy as well as practice on a local, national and global level.

The Gillings MPH curriculum is comprised of 42 credits. The 12-credit Gillings MPH Core curriculum ensures a strong foundation in public health, and the chance to work across departments with our world-renowned faculty. This is followed by 15 concentration area credits and nine electives – plus a three-credit practicum and a three-credit health behavior Capstone course.

Our faculty members are action-oriented and inclusive, working to create real-time solutions ranging from community engagement, utilizing the most up-to-date health communication tools and developing meaningful policy recommendations that address the most pressing public health topics of today. One of the strengths of our MPH concentrations is that they are interdepartmental in focus and benefit from shared faculty leaders across the Gillings School. Faculty areas of excellence include the behavioral aspects of cancer prevention, tobacco control, HIV/AIDS, interpersonal violence, opioid use, HPV vaccination and digital health and weight management.

Our diverse cohort of students has numerous opportunities to participate in a wide range of collaborative research and real-world experiences. Our premier status as one of the leading institutions in public health education in the country means we attract the best and the brightest. As a result, you’ll learn as much from your peers as from your professors because of the caliber of your classmates!

Chapel Hill is special

As the number one public school of public health in the country, Gillings provides a unique atmosphere for studying public health in all of its many facets. Situated within the scope of a broad and highly regarded university, Gillings offers all the benefits of a large research institution within a smaller school environment. Additionally, our physical proximity to all of the other allied health and medical schools within UNC-Chapel Hill provides unmatched opportunities for collaboration across many disciplines. And as part of the renowned Research Triangle, there are numerous public, private and governmental sector opportunities and jobs available to our students and graduates.

Informative and Engaging Courses

Just a few of the courses available:

  • Critical Issues in Global Health
  • Global Health Ethics
  • Cultural Humility
  • Health Behavior Survey Methods

Research Areas – Just to Name a Few

Doctoral students develop research skills working with world-class faculty members who together have a broad range of research interests. Faculty areas of excellence include:

  • Adolescent Health
  • Cancer Prevention and Control
  • Coping with Chronic Disease
  • Digital Health
  • Injury and Violence Prevention
  • Eliminating Health Disparities
  • Diet, Obesity and Physical Activity
  • Sexual Health, STIs and HIV/AIDS
  • Substance Use
  • Tobacco Control including Vaping

Money Matters

The department’s track record in securing research funding is excellent, and many of our students – doctoral and master’s – work shoulder-to-shoulder with faculty getting the critical experience and funding they need. During fiscal year 2018, health behavior faculty members were Principal Investigators on $15.1 million in grants from a diverse array of agencies including USAID, the National Cancer Institute and the Department of Justice.

Life after Gillings

The majority of our MPH graduates are employed soon after graduation. Recent graduates of our Health Behavior MPH concentration now work at nonprofit organizations focused on practice and research (e.g., Research Triangle International (RTI), American Institute for Research (AIR) FHI and Intrahealth), in government agencies (e.g., Center for Disease Control, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs and the World Health Organization), at universities (e.g., University of Michigan, Emory University, Harvard University) and philanthropic organizations (e.g., Duke Endowment and Kresge Foundation).

And of course, many of our master’s students go on to earn doctoral degrees in related fields. Our more than 2000 alumni work and contribute to virtually every corner of the planet in a host of roles.

We may be right for you

Dr. Kurt Ribisl

Dr. Kurt Ribisl

If you’re looking for an academic home at a school that can provide you with stellar training in marketable, meaningful quantitative and qualitative skills, the Gillings School of Global Public Health could be right for you. I hope you’ll explore the rest of our departmental web site to get more detailed information on what we have to offer. And of course, if you need more information or have questions, we’re here to help.

Kurt Ribisl

Kurt M. Ribisl, PhD
Jo Anne Earp Distinguished Professor and Department Chair

For general questions about the department, the degree program, or admissions, contact us via email at or call us at (919) 966-7430. Questions about employment should be directed to (919) 966-7460.

Main Department Contacts

Academic Coordinators

Mailing Address
Department of Epidemiology
UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health
135 Dauer Drive
2101 McGavran-Greenberg Hall, CB #7435
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7435

Our offices are located on the second floor of McGavran-Greenberg Hall.