Health promotion & behavioral sciences

Identifying and evaluating the factors that affect health, and investigating the most successful means of intervention.

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Building healthier communities

The Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences prepares students to work alongside communities to develop, implement and evaluate successful interventions. 

Students join our department because they believe that making healthy life choices attainable and appealing is the most effective way to prevent disease and injury. Many times this means combining evidence-informed theories that address public health challenges with the goals and values of the community to create better intervention outcomes. Our faculty literally wrote the book on developing successful interventions, a seminal work that’s used in public health classrooms around the nation. Their expertise not only helps our students build valuable skill sets, such as how to undertake a needs assessment or evaluate a project’s effectiveness but also encourages them to address their own biases and assumptions to achieve better, more sustainable health programs.

“As a graduate student in our department, you will have an opportunity to broaden your knowledge and skills in the development, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based interventions to promote healthy behaviors.  Faculty members in the department come from diverse academic backgrounds including anthropology, clinical and social psychology, sociology, social and behavioral epidemiology, dietetics, and qualitative and quantitative methodology.

After graduation, you will find opportunities to use your education to make an impact on public health in a variety of settings including government agencies such as state or local health departments, national agencies and organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institutes of Health, private sector organizations such as the American Cancer Society, as well as health care settings, and academic institutions, among others. We look forward to helping you achieve your career goals.”

Dr. Christine Markham
Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences
Allan King’s Professorship in Public Health

Health promotion and health education

Inspiring and empowering others to make change.

The field of health promotion and health education emphasizes giving people the ability to better control their own health destiny. Rather than seeing ourselves as the change-agents, our students and faculty work to help communities get the things they need to help themselves and those around them to live healthier lives. More than just providing resources and education, health promotion evaluates the systems and environments, as well as the perceptions and attitudes that can impact a population’s health. By determining points of intervention, our research can use small “nudges” or adjustments within populations that can lead to dramatic changes and effects.

Behavioral sciences

Uncovering the motivations and factors that influence health.

Behavioral sciences take into account all of the possible things that can influence a person’s actions and choices when it comes to their health. Our students regularly contribute to the scientific literature and learn to develop and implement state-of-the-art social and behavioral science theory, design and analytic approaches. Understanding the patterns behind healthy choices and consequences provides the evidence and grounding that can give programs and interventions the best possible chance of success.

Health promotion and behavioral sciences research

We offer a supportive and thriving research culture, including many grant-funded projects and high-profile collaborations with other health and community organizations. Our department is also affiliated with the Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research and the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, both of which offer additional opportunities for leadership and enriching experiences.

Our research interests and efforts include:
  • Adolescent vaccination
  • HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention
  • Promotion of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination to prevent a number of cancers
  • Prevention and cessation of smoking/vaping or tobacco use
  • Community involvement in cancer treatment and other health conditions
  • Health resource accessibility
  • Birth control advocacy and pregnancy prevention
  • Effective sexual health education
  • Cancer screening promotion for evidence-based tests
  • Nutrition and healthy eating
  • Dental hygiene and healthy habits for children
  • Integrating school and family efforts for children’s health
  • Maternal health and workforce needs
  • Infant health
  • Childhood obesity
  • Chronic disease management


Degree programs

The Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences offers the following degrees:

Master of Public Health (MPH)
Fully-online Master of Public Health (MPH)
Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Contact us

Jennifer Roberts
Academic and Admissions Advisor


    Working with community partners to build a pandemic communication strategy 

    People obtain information about important issues in different ways—it’s a fact that teams with UTHealth School of Public Health’s Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences confront constantly in their research programs and community outreach.

    READ MORESPH - Communication strategy

    A poster that reads: Labor Day Sept 2020 Sanitize your hands, keep your distance, small groups, wear a mask

    Support grows for the new UTHealth COVID-19 Center of Excellence   

    Bringing together expertise and access to the best clinical care, research trials, discovery science, and public health knowledge, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) has established the UTHealth COVID-19 Center of Excellence.

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    $5 million awarded to reduce COVID-19 disparities

    To help reduce COVID-19-related health disparities in vulnerable populations in Texas, a team of researchers led by UTHealth will identify disease hotspots and testing deserts in three racially diverse areas, and then develop and evaluate intervention strategies to increase COVID-19 testing.

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    Spotlight on Brianna Lewis, MHCA 

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    Spotlight on Sierra Castedo de Martell, MPH 

    Sierra Castedo de Martell, a Behavioral Sciences PhD student at the Austin campus shares how COVID-19 is shaping her studies and changing her perspective on public health work.

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    Sierra sits in her home office/nursery, holding her infant son.