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University of Pittsburgh    
2016-2017 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  May 20, 2022
2016-2017 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences

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The Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh examines social and behavioral factors as these interact to promote or threaten public health. The primary educational mission of the Department is to prepare students for positions of responsibility and leadership in public health practice, research, and training. Our students learn to employ the most current health behavior theories and community development strategies in approaching public health challenges. They develop applied research skills in community health assessment and planning, program implementation and evaluation, health education, and health communication. They learn how to design programs and policies and conduct community-based research, and to work as part of interdisciplinary teams examining behavioral interventions and community assessment strategies. These educational and practice experiences prepare our graduates to move into leadership positions at the local, national, and international levels.

The department has a world-class faculty that is involved in teaching, research, and community service on the local, national, and international level. We collaborate with local and regional public health systems, and many of the leadership staff in these organizations also have faculty appointments and teach classes in the department.

Contact Information

Steve Albert, PhD
6129 Parran Hall

For additional information concerning specific degrees, contact the following: MPH-Martha Ann Terry, 6137 Parran Hall, 412-624-5887 or; MPH/PhD and MPH/MSW in Social Work-Mark Friedman, 6134 Parran Hall, 412-383-2162 or; PhD and DrPH-Jeanette Trauth, 6138 Parran Hall, 412-624-0968 or; Admission and Registration-Miriam Fagan, 6104A Parran Hall, 412-624-3107 or

Admission: All Applicants

Financial Assistance

Although resources for master’s students are limited, the program makes every effort to assist students in accessing some level of financial aid. Small grants and awards are available from the Department, the Graduate School of Public Health, and from the University, and many BCHS students have been successful in competing for these awards. In addition, there is typically a small number of Graduate Student Assistant and Graduate Student Researcher positions available for full-time doctoral students. There are also opportunities for paid field practicum positions, and many students are able to supplement their income through part-time employment on public health-related service or research projects conducted within the Graduate School, the University, or in the community.

Graduate Programs

Educational programs of the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences build upon a common body of public health knowledge and social/behavioral science concepts, theories and applied research methods. The Master of Public Health (MPH) Program prepares students to assess the health status and needs of populations, develop public health interventions, and evaluate these interventions as well as develop recommendations for improvement. Students learn and put into practice assessment and research skills in the context of social and behavioral change at the individual, organizational, and community levels with an emphasis on social ecology and social justice. Three joint program options are also available. Two programs with the School of Social Work, the MPH/PhD and the MPH/MSW in Public Health Social Work, train social workers for leadership positions in public health systems and prepare them for research and teaching posts. Students also have the option to receive the MPH and the Master of Public Administration (MPA), the Master of Public and International Affairs (MPIA), or the Master of International Development (MID) through a joint program with the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Finally, students can earn an MPH and a PhD in anthropology in cooperation with the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

Research Focus

The Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences has an extensive array of funded research and training projects. BCHS faculty and staff are skilled in the use of both quantitative and qualitative research methods, and the Department is particularly well known for its community-based participatory research strategies and modeling-simulation efforts designed to improve the health and welfare of communities.

Areas of research strengths include:

  • Diabetes and Chronic Disease Prevention
  • Cancer Screening Behavior
  • Health Equity
  • Public Health and Aging
  • HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases
  • Maternal and Child Health
  • Evaluation Science
  • Global Health
  • Modeling of health behavior and linked disease dynamics

Research and training projects are funded by organizations such as:

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • National Cancer Institute (NCI)
  • National Institute on Aging (NIA)
  • National Institute of Nursing (NINR)
  • Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HRSA)
  • Pennsylvania Department of Health
  • Local and National Philanthropic Organizations

Doctoral Programs

The Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) Program trains individuals for positions of senior responsibility and leadership in public health practice settings. Students develop skill in the seven core areas identified by the Association of Schools of Public Health for DrPH degree programs. This includes coursework and practical experience in the following areas: 1) theory and research methods that facilitate-critical analysis, 2) community orientation, 3) communication, 4) management, 5) leadership, 6) advocacy and 7) professionalism and ethics. These skills position students to assume leadership positions in public health agencies, health departments, nongovernmental organizations, foundations, and agencies in the human services sector.

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Program prepares students to conduct research in the social and behavioral sciences areas of public health in a variety of settings as well as teach in academic settings. The PhD curriculum is formed by a social-ecological perspective regarding the determinants of health and opportunities for intervention. Within this overarching framework, the curriculum also emphasizes theory-driven research, addressing health issues across the developmental life span of populations, examining variation across socio-demographic categories such as gender, age, and sociocultural status as it affects health and health disparities. The curriculum addresses the following areas: individual behavior, population health, research design and methods, statistical analysis; behavioral interventions; and the integration of public health research and practice.

Students may also pursue a certificate program to complement their area of study. (See section on degree requirements  for list of certificate programs.)

Master’s Degree

The MPH Program is a 45-credit program requiring students to complete the Pitt Public Health core courses (18-19 credits), the departmental core courses (17-18 credits), and elective courses. The departmental core courses cover social/behavioral theory and concepts; applied social/behavioral research methods; program planning, implementation and evaluation; health communication; community development approaches and experience in applying social/behavioral theories and methods through the completion of a 200 hour practicum/internship. School core courses include Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Public Health Biology, Environmental and Occupational Health, Health Policy and Management, and Capstone.

Electives are selected from a range of courses that have a social/behavioral emphasis or that pertain to a student’s area of concentration or interest. Students are required to complete a practicum in a public health setting and prepare an essay or thesis that demonstrates the ability to synthesize information from numerous sources that addresses an issue of public health significance.

A number of joint degrees programs are also offered.  See joint degree information below.

Certificates/Specialized Study

The Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences offers opportunities for certificates or specialized study in the following areas:

  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health and Wellness
  • Health Equity
  • Evaluation of Public Health Programs
  • Community-Based Participatory Research and Practice (CBPRP)


    Master’sDoctoralCertificateJoint Degree


      Behavioral & Communty Hlth SciBehavioral Science

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