Research in Community Health Sciences.

Alcohol and Substance Use

Alcohol and substance use research in the department focuses on the etiology and consequences of drinking and the development and evaluation of programs and policies for reducing alcohol-related risk taking and harm. The focus of research is preventing drinking behaviors that result in harmful consequences. Faculty research is funded by NIH/AAA. Examples of research in this area include conducting randomized controlled trials to test best practices to motivate people in health care settings to change unhealthy alcohol and drug use and navigate the specialized treatment when needed; and the development and evaluation of programs and policies designed to reduce college student drinking and negative alcohol-related consequences. We also oversee annual surveys of nearly 350,000 first-year college students on a range of issues related to alcohol and other drug use, the study of underage alcohol use, adolescent alcohol brief intervention, and the study of drinking onset; cultural issues; alcohol-related risk behavior and protective factors.


Several faculty in the CHS department focus on assessing and intervening with victims and perpetrators of violence. Specific sub-topics within violence that are the focus of our research include teen dating violence, adult partner violence, community violence, bullying toward lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, child and forced marriage, forced sex trade, and violence prevention with emergency department patients who have sustained gun shot and knife wounds. Funded research projects are located in multiple cities and towns in Massachusetts, India, and Russia. All faculty who are engaged in violence prevention research have established strong partnerships with community-based practitioners, which they view as vital to successful violence prevention research and practice efforts. In addition, our consideration of violence includes the social and community contexts that influence violence perpetration, and the emotional and physical consequences of intentional injury.

Chronic Disease Prevention and Control

Much of the excess mortality today is a result of chronic premature disease and morbidity, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Our research strengths in this area focus on a trans-disciplinary approach to the social and behavioral causes of chronic disease and interventions at all levels to reduce or slow chronic disease onset. In addition, reducing secondary diagnosis of chronic disease through improved management is an important and visible area to the faculty. Examples of this scholarly work include the identification of mechanisms linking socioeconomic status to obesity levels in middle aged women, pursuit of optimal intervention strategies to help public housing residents quit smoking more effectively, and effective use of policy to reduce tobacco use.

Sexual and Reproductive Health

Underlying the notion of sexual and reproductive health is the fundamental right of all, whether young or old, women, men or transgender, straight, gay , lesbian or bisexual, HIV positive or negative, to make choices about their own sexuality and reproduction. Faculty of the Department of Community Health Sciences are engaged in scholarship in this field that cuts across the life span of women and men, as well as many disciplinary approaches political science, anthropology and sociology, developmental psychology, gender studies, and health policy analyses. Projects address a wide range of topics related to sexuality, sexual health and risk, pregnancy and its prevention, childbirth, and maternal and infant health, and include studies of national and international scope. Whatever the focus, our work recognizes and probes the larger social, economic, and political contexts that shape the sexual and reproductive lives of men and women and produce disparities across race, ethnicity, class and sexual identity.

Ultimately, the work of CHS faculty is all about designing and testing the effectiveness of innovative interventions. We have developed and evaluated programs based in urban emergency rooms, including one that supports adolescents to reduce their risky sexual behaviors and prevent sexually transmitted infections. Other faculty members develop interventions in clinical and community sites to support change in the lives of mothers from diverse cultural backgrounds whose depression affects their health and the well-being of their children. Expanding the reach of CHS faculty research internationally means testing the acceptability of an HIV prevention project with demonstrated effectiveness in promoting sexual communication and condom use among at-risk wives in urban India, and the feasibility of a male-centered family planning program in village India.