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PhD, Behavioral and Community Health

Children playing on swings

Conduct research to develop innovative public health interventions

Acquire and apply essential research skills to determine the health needs of populations, design, implement and evaluate programs and policies aimed at improving the public's health.

Perfect for...

  • Students who are passionate about designing interventions to influence individual and community-level health behavior and health policy
  • Students looking for a full-time in-person experience
  • Students who want exceptional and tailored advising
  • Students who seek to excel as public health leaders 

Career Paths

  • Public Health Analyst
  • Senior Study Director
  • Behavioral Epidemiologist
  • Senior Research Analyst
  • Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Assistant Scientist
  • Assistant Professor
  • Director of Healthy Equity Research
  • Senior Research Analyst

Program Overview

The doctoral program in Behavioral and Community Health develops health professionals competent in understanding the health needs of populations and qualified to conduct research to inform programs and policies aimed at improving the public's health. Students will develop research skills essential in making significant contributions to the scientific and professional literature in behavioral and community health.

See all Behavioral and Community Health graduate student resources.

For more information, see the Behavioral and Community Health Flyer.

Our exceptional, individually-tailored student advising is reflected in our 3:1 doctoral student to faculty advising ratio
  • Build emergent themes and sub-themes within qualitative data which require re-reading of text and an iterative process of data aggregation and interpretation;
  • Discuss the appropriateness of a variety of statistical techniques to analyze quantitative data;
  • Run intermediate-level quantitative statistical techniques using a packaged program; 
  • Choose major social, behavioral and public health theories to use with the design and evaluation of interventions;
  • Apply behavior change theories in the development of research questions and hypotheses, intervention development, evaluation approaches;
  • Identify and use mobile/computer apps to gather information or collect data for use in the evaluation of research;
  • Manage traditional and new media to communicate health information (e.g., statistics, reports) effectively;
  • Build data validation tools to measure behavioral factors that influence community health;
  • Write a research proposal for theory-based research;
  • Select an appropriate research design;
  • Implement all aspects of a secondary data analysis study:
    • Conceptualize theoretical framework to be studied;
    • Conduct all aspects of single item and multi-item scale variable creation;
    • Conduct univariate, bivariate, and multivariate analysis; interpret the results;
    • Write a manuscript including introduction, methods, results, conclusions, tables, and figures;
  • Develop and communicate a comprehensive evaluation plan for health-related interventions at both the environmental and individual level, including a selection of a sample strategy, evaluation design, and appropriate statistical analyses;
  • Apply evidence-based approaches in the development and evaluation of social and behavioral science interventions

Students admitted to the doctoral program in behavioral and community health will complete 78 credit hours of coursework/dissertation research.

See all requirements on the UMD Catalog
´╗┐Course Name Course Description
HLTH 625: Qualitative Research Methods A discussion of major paradigms in qualitative inquiry, an overview of the process of qualitative research, and an introduction to several qualitative research methods, including grounded theory, ethnography, phenomenology, and content analysis. Students will collect, transcribe, analyze, and present qualitative data using introductory interview and analytic techniques.
HLTH 652: Quantitative Research Methods I in Public Health Covers intermediate statistics and procedures in health-related research for doctoral students. The course focuses on the applied level of statistics rather than theoretical with the emphasis on 1) how to apply statistical models, 2) how to perform the analysis with available software, and 3) how to interpret findings.
HLTH 653: Quantitative Research Methods II in Public Health Intermediate and advanced statistics and procedures in health-related research for doctoral students with the focus on applications of these statistical methodological methods to public health research.
HLTH 665: Health Behavior I The psychological, social psychological, and sociological theories of health behavior. The relation of health knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, intentions, and behavior to preventive, illness, sick-role, and health utilization behaviors.
HLTH 666: Health Behavior II (Preq HLTH 665) An advanced course with intensive training in health behavior research and the opportunity to carry out original research in health behavior. Patient-provider interaction, patient cooperation with medical treatment and other social and psychological influences on health care.
HLTH 671: Public Health Communication An exploration of the broad and diverse field of health communication including medical encounters, everyday communication about health, advertising, news, public health campaigns, community outreach, public policy and international programs.  Theories and applied efforts that have been studied and documented will be examined.
HLTH 672: Public Health Informatics A basic overview of Informatics and its application in a public health setting. The major goal is for students to understand the basic tools and building blocks needed to utilize this technology in order to improve their professional productivity.  
HLTH 688: Special Problems in Health Education Independent study. See Independent Study Form for more information.
HLTH 674: Health Literacy The purpose of this course is to introduce students to health literacy research, practice, and skills. The course will develop students' understanding of how health literacy is both a barrier and an asset for health and how health literacy affects a wide range of outcomes. Students will learn the basics of health literacy concepts, models, and research methods, and discuss similarities and differences in health literacy research in clinical and public health settings.
HLTH 710: Methods & Techniques of Research Provides an overview of research design and methodological issues in health education. Through lecture, reading, and several exercise, students will acquire an understanding of the research process. Issues include those of experimental and non-experimental designs, and both qualitative and quantitative data collection strategies. The course is designed as an examination of several research issues, particularly those related to reliability and validity of measurement and design, instrumentation and data collection methodology.
HLTH 711: Advanced Methods of Research (Preq HLTH 710) Quantitative techniques, advanced research methods and design issues.
HLTH 712: Applied Research Methods in Behavioral and Community Health This course is designed to build on the research skills obtained in 710, Methods and Techniques in Research, and other fundamental research methods and statistics courses. Methods and problems that are commonly encountered in health education research will be discussed including the examination of actual research studies. Complex behavioral research issues will be addressed with existing research data sets. With these data sets, students will develop an analytic plan, and conduct data analysis.
HLTH 742: Professional Writing & Presentations Acquaints students with a variety of types of professional writing required of public health professionals, including: grant proposals; journal articles; textbooks; presentation proposals and papers; and theses and dissertations. The scope of the course includes both the form and content of a range of technical documents as well as the processes of writing, peer review, and critique.
HLTH 776: Community Health Program Evaluation  An application of basic research methods to evaluate of community health programs. Students will work in groups to evaluate the effectiveness of a community health intervention.
HLTH 898: Individualized Research Plan --
HLTH 899: Dissertation --