Social & Behavioral Sciences

Social and Behavioral Sciences focuses on identifying and analyzing the social determinants and behavioral risk factors that are associated with public health problems, and using this knowledge to understand and promote healthy behavior within communities. Contemporary public health issues addressed by the social and behavioral sciences include the prevention and treatment of alcohol and drug abuse, tobacco control, injury control, mental health, domestic violence, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, adolescent health, communications, and grassroots political and community organizing.

The Master of Public Health in Social and Behavioral Sciences trains students to plan, implement, and administer programs designed to resolve compelling public health problems created or exacerbated by individual behaviors and social disparities. Students explore the social and behavioral aspects of health, quantitative and behavioral research, and program planning and evaluation, applying their skills and knowledge to selected topics in the discipline. Outside of the classroom, students may participate in departmental research opportunities. Graduates are prepared for careers in a variety of public health settings, including hospitals, nonprofit agencies, academic institutions, and public health departments.


In addition to the program competencies that all MPH graduates master, upon completing the requirements for the MPH in Social and Behavioral Sciences, graduates are able to:

  • access and analyze archival and other data to assess a public health problem for a specific place and population
  • apply social and behavioral theories and quantitative and qualitative methods to the development of innovative and effective public health intervention programs
  • develop rigorous evaluation trials to assess the efficacy of public health interventions
  • communicate findings to the public and to policy-makers
  • advocate for the institutionalization of evidence-based public health programs

Emphasis Areas

Current students who wish to delve deeper into a subspecialty within Social & Behavioral Sciences can use concentration and School-wide electives to focus their studies in an emphasis area. Emphasis areas and courses are continually evolving to meet the needs of the field; for this reason, students are encouraged to consult with their advisors to help decide if an emphasis is right for them and suggest which courses to take within that emphasis. Career Services can also help students to determine if an emphasis area (and which) best aligns with their career goals.

Prospective students should contact the Social and Behavioral Sciences staff for additional information.

Health Disparities Emphasis

Examining health disparities is critical in effectively serving vulnerable populations. Social and Behavioral Sciences faculty conduct research and teach courses that focus on health disparities, including their underlying factors and how to eliminate them.

Health Communication Emphasis

Communication-based interventions are essential in promoting healthy behaviors, changing social norms, and advancing health policies and programs.

Intervention Planning Emphasis

Effective intervention planning results in public health policies and programs that address the societal conditions and individual behaviors that produce adverse health outcomes. Multiple levels of influence affect health behavior: individual factors, interpersonal processes, and institutional, community, and societal factors, including public policy.