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Behavioral and Social Science

Social and behavioral sciences use different sociocultural and behavioral theory to better understand how healthy environments can be created and sustained among different populations. Students concentrating in these fields learn how policy, community dynamic, and other social factors contribute health and how to develop programs or outreach to improve it

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Sample Courses


Designing a health education campaign is a complex, multi-faceted undertaking. Public health professionals make use of the most recent research findings, educational models, and distribution methods to craft a wide-reaching and effective campaign. Part of a public health education in social and behavioral science is learning to design health education campaigns and see to it that the message – such as: anti-smoking, pregnancy prevention, or anti-drug use – is conveyed clearly and reaches the most vulnerable populations.


Tobacco use is one of the most prominent causes of today’s deadliest diseases. While health officials have made progress in reducing tobacco use in the U.S., many developing countries are seeing increasingly higher smoking rates. In studying smoking cessation programs, public health students become knowledgeable in the roles different cultural factors play in tobacco use and how to most effectively educate populations and communities about the chronic health risks smoking poses.


Although teenage pregnancy rates in the U.S. are higher than in many other developed countries, the number has decreased steadily since 1991. One reason for the lower numbers is well-developed pregnancy education and prevention programs geared toward teenagers. In this course, students gain the tools to understand the variations surrounding teenage behavior across different cultures. This knowledge equips the student to better understand how unwanted pregnancy can be prevented and how sexual education can be successfully applied globally.

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Meet Lisa, a PhD Candidate in Behavioral and Social Science! 

What inspired you to study to public health?

A passion for understanding the experiences of people living with chronic illnesses inspired me to study public health. Diabetes is a special area of interest for me. It impacts the well-being of individuals and populations and thus is a significant public health concern.

What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you were starting out in public health?

A background in science and statistics is very helpful!  Science and math were not my strong areas in high school, and I gravitated towards literature, art, and music. I have been blessed with exceptional mentors and instructors at my institution, and this has helped me gain necessary skills in scientific thinking and writing. There is still a place for arts-based research and creative thinking in public health, however, and I am determined to incorporate these aspects into my research of the experiences of people with chronic illnesses. I believe there are multiple ways of understanding and studying a phenomenon.