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University of Pittsburgh    
2017-2018 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jun 16, 2024
2017-2018 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 the social determinants of health, that is, the set of social and behavioral factors that either promote or threaten public health. Our interventions alter these social and behavioral factors (such as housing, health literacy, or care management) to assess effects on community health. The BCHS mission statement summarizes our approach:


Healthy people living in thriving and equitable communities.


Improve and promote health and equity by engaging individuals, communities, and systems through our research, teaching, and practice.


Open communication; active collaboration; integrated and strength-based approaches; social justice and health equity; application of knowledge in the context of people’s lives.

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 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 in Social Work and MPH/MSW in Social Work-Steven Albert, 6129 Parran Hall, 412-383-8693 or; PhD and DrPH-Jeanette Trauth, 6138 Parran Hall, 412-624-0968 or; Admission and Registration, 412-624-3107.

Admission: All Applicants

Applications for admission to the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences are processed through the Office of Student Affairs at Pitt Public Health. You must apply for the MPH, PhD, and DrPH programs through SOPHAS, the centralized application service for graduate schools of public health.

Please review the Pitt Public Health requirements  for admission before applying.

Application instructions differ depending on whether you are applying for a degree, a certificate, or for non-degree coursework. Please follow the application instructions  for your plan of study when applying to Pitt Public Health.

Department requirements- BCHS doctoral applicants:

  • PhD applicants: a master’s degree in a discipline relevant to public health is required.
  • DrPH applicants: A MPH degree is required.
  • A minimum grade point average of 3.3.
  • Official GRE scores from a test taken within three years of the application date. Scores in the 60th percentile or higher are highly desirable.
  • Completed 3 credits of college math passed with a C or better

Department requirements- BCHS MPH applicants:

  • At least a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale
  • 153 (60%) verbal GRE, 148 (31%) quantitative GRE and 4.5 (82%) analytic writing
  • Completed 3 credits of college math passed with a C or better
  • Completed 6 credits of social sciences passed with a C or better

The BCHS department requires a minimum TOEFL score of 100 on the IBT or a minimum IELTS score of Band 7.0, if applicable. TOEFL or IELTS must be taken within two years of application.

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, a small number of Graduate Student Assistant and Graduate Student Researcher positions are 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 degree 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. The Department offers two doctoral degrees:  a PhD (doctor of philosophy) and DrPH (doctor of public health).  See Doctoral Programs section below for description.

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
  • Mental Health

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 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.  The PhD Program is a 72 credit program designed to be completed in 2 years full-time coursework in addition to 2 years for completion of dissertation research.

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 DrPH Program is a 72 credit program designed to be completed in 2 years full-time coursework in addition to 2 years for completion of dissertation research.

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 approved courses 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 addresses an issue of public health significance and that demonstrates the ability to synthesize information from numerous sources.  The MPH program is designed to be completed in four semesters of full-time study.  An option does exist for finishing in three semesters.

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

Joint Degrees

Students in the BCHS MPH program can pursue two graduate degrees simultaneously, through partnerships with other schools and departments at the University of Pittsburgh. Joint programs typically reduce the number of credits needed for each degree, allowing students to earn two degrees in three years for master’s programs and four to five years for MPH/PhD programs.

To participate in a joint degree program, students apply separately to both schools, and must meet all of the usual admissions requirements (including entrance exams like the GRE). If admitted to both schools, students alternate their primary program of study by semester or by year.

Although it is possible to apply to both schools at the same time, currently enrolled students can still apply for a joint degree as long as they have not yet completed one year of full-time study.

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)


    DoctoralJoint DegreeMaster’sCertificate


      Behavioral & Communty Hlth Sci

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