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Health, Behavior and Society

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social & Behavioral Sciences

This doctoral program is designed for individuals seeking training for careers as social and behavioral scientists, health educators and health promotion or communication specialists in the public health arena.

The emphasis of the curriculum is on the application of behavioral and social science perspectives to research on contemporary health problems. Understanding and influencing health behaviors that are risk factors in disease and illness, as well as behaviors that can be considered protective and health enhancing, are strengths of the program.

Rigorous training in research methods and program design and evaluation are also key elements of the curriculum. The program focuses its research in the following areas.

Health Education & Communication

This area focuses on the application of principles from education, communication, behavioral, social science and psychological theories to encourage health behaviors conducive to optimal health in individuals, groups and communities. Students are exposed to current research on health education and communication, with particular focus on multilevel, ecological models of health and health behavior, design and evaluation of multifaceted intervention programs and patient-provider communication.

Social & Psychological Influences on Health

This area focuses on social and psychological factors and processes in the etiology and prevalence of disease in health-care-seeking behavior, disease prevention, long-term care and rehabilitation. Students are exposed to current research on health knowledge, attitudes and beliefs; social and psychological factors in disease etiology; risk reduction; and cultural influences in public health, including cross-cultural and multilevel studies.

Student Handbook

View the Department of Health, Behavior and Society's PhD Student Handbook


For additional questions related to admissions requirements and applications, please contact L. Robin Newcomb (