Degrees Offered

Students interested in social and behavioral sciences can pursue both MPH and PhD degrees. The MPH degree is offered directly through SBS, while students interested in PhD training in psychosocial and behavioral epidemiology apply through the home department, which is Chronic Disease Epidemiology.

Master of Public Health

The Social and Behavioral Sciences Division teaches students about the social, psychological and behavioral factors that interact with biological factors to influence health, illness and recovery. The impetus comes from the increasing recognition that behavioral, psychological, and social factors play a crucial role in epidemiology and public health, both as risk factors for adverse health outcomes and in strategies to promote health and prevent disease.

SBS Students Share Their Research Experience

León, Nicaragua

A qualitative interview with an HIV patient who is also the leader of the clinic’s HIV patient advocacy group.

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León, Nicaragua

In front of the HIV clinic’s posters. The one I’m holding says, “Before pointing out and discriminating, your finger should point towards solidarity towards those people who live with HIV/AIDS”. I quickly realized that stigma against HIV positive individuals is a big problem in Nicaragua.

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León, Nicaragua

Every morning I was greeted by this colorful mural outside of the local hospital. The mural is titled, "HIV/AIDS affects the whole world...Protect Yourself to Prevent This." I am pointing to the most important message of the mural: "Get Tested Today!"

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León, Nicaragua

First day at work! My team and I are showing off our colorful scrubs. I am holding up a bag of rice because our participants were at first compensated with food packages that included rice, beans and oil. Imagine carrying these heavy packages in 95 degree weather!

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León, Nicaragua

After our first successful health education class with our youngsters.

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León, Nicaragua

Having fun on the top of Basilica Catedral de León Nicaragua, the largest cathedral in Central America.

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León, Nicaragua

Relaxing while showing my YSPH pride on top of the Basilica Catedral de León Nicaragua.

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León, Nicaragua

Representing YSPH in front of a beautiful waterfall in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

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León, Nicaragua

This summer I witnessed the most incredible sunsets in my life. This one occurred after a short rainstorm in one of the beaches in León, Nicaragua.

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León, Nicaragua

You can appreciate the beauty and grandeur of the Basilica Catedral de León Nicaragua, the largest cathedral in Central America.

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Washington, D.C.

Center for Science in the Public Interest founder Michael Jacobson presents at the annual Soda Summit, organized around reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

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Marion Nestle, NYU Professor of Nutrition and author, attends CSPI’s Soda Summit in Washington, D.C.

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Washington, D.C.

The California Center for Public Health Advocacy presents at CSPI’s Soda Summit on the harms of consuming liquid sugar.

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Washington, D.C.

Wangari Gardens, named after Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai, in Washington, D.C. is a community garden providing free, fresh produce to community members.

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A disabled plot holder, Grace Kelly, with a number of chronic conditions has improved her health by spending time at the gardens with an accessible garden plot.

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Washington, D.C.

Picking fresh produce grown at Wangari Gardens

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Washington, D.C.

A local teacher brings community children to the gardens to learn about health and the environment.

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Washington, D.C.

Wangari Gardens maintains an outdoor classroom where community members attend workshops on a variety of gardening topics, such as pest management and beekeeping.

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Washington, D.C.

The nonprofit, DC Water, runs a test plot at Wangari Gardens using recycled biosolids as compost.

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Washington, D.C.

DC Water’s test plot shows strong growth with recycled biosolids compost over the summer growing season.

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Hidalgo, México

View from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun overlooking the Pyramid of the Moon at the ancient archeological ruins of Teotihuacán.

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Hidalgo, México

As part of the welcome ceremony to Huixcazdhá (the small, rural, isolated community where I conducted a health assessment) children of secondary school (grades 6-9) put on a welcome skit filled with dances, acrobatics and songs. These children were vital in helping the research team find the individuals to be interviewed.

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Hidalgo, México

In order to interview as many people as possible in the community, Meley Woldeghebriel (also a YSPH student) and I worked with two Yale undergrads, a Master’s student from Cambridge University, three students from Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey and four students from Instituto Tecnológico Superior de Huichapan. This photo is of the entire research team at our first encounter.

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Hidalgo, México

As a doctor only visits the community once every two months to conduct health workshops, I conducted a focus group with the members of the health committee in order to better understand what resources are available to the members of Huixcazdhá. The committee is responsible for conducting a health census, promoting workshops and staffing the clinic. This photo shows the members of the health committee outside the clinic (Casa de Salud). Older members of La Pequeña Tribu painted the mural on the wall. In addition to this focus group, focus groups were conducted with recent secondary graduates, La Pequeña Tribu, young mothers, teachers and the elderly. Additionally, 60 interviews were conducted among members of the community.

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Hidalgo, México

Huixcazdhá is a very rural community. The majority of its residents are either subsistence farmers or workers at the amaranth factory. In an attempt to understand what life is like working in agriculture, the research team woke up early and planted amaranth seedlings with factory workers. While we tried to keep up, the factory workers planted almost triple the number of seedlings.

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Hidalgo, México

This photo of Meley and I was taken towards the end of planting amaranth with the factory workers. Despite the fact that both of our fathers work in agriculture, it was a unique experience to see how much hard work goes into subsistence farming.

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Hidalgo, México

This photo shows the watering hole in Huixcazdhá, the stone walls built by La Pequeña Tribu and the setting for much of our fieldwork. However, upon our first arrival, much of Huixcazdhá was dry and barren due to not having had rain in three months.

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Hidalgo, México

As part of the secondary graduation ceremony, students performed traditional dances from this region of México. This particular dance was inspired by their Aztec heritage. Because transportation and economic barriers hinder many students from continuing on to preparatory school (the US equivalent to high school), the secondary graduation is a community-wide celebration.

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Hidalgo, México

After working in Huixcazdhá for a couple of weeks, each research team presented their findings to the community’s leaders. My particular project working with governmental organizations to improve access to care in marginalized communities will continue over the next 18 months. However, by working with community members, we were able to brainstorm short-term solutions for how to improve quality of life.

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Hidalgo, México

After completing our internship, Meley and I explored the states neighboring Hidalgo. This is the smallest mummy in the world. The photo was taken at El Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato.

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Quezalguaque, León, Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a country that defines itself as Christian, socialist and collectively responsible. The municipality where I lived, Quezalguaque, was strongly Sandinista and strongly is support of President Daniel Ortega.

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Quezalguaque, León, Nicaragua

The Urrutia family comes from a community in Quezalguaque called San Agustín. Approximately 46 of the 90 or so families in this comarca have been affected by Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). The majority of local families work harvesting sugarcane (pictured in the background), leading many to believe that harsh working conditions and/or pesticides may contribute to causing the epidemic.

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Quezalguaque, León, Nicaragua

The predominant portion of our work consisted of surveying households of CKD cases and of the general population to determine their knowledge, attitudes and practices surrounding the illness and peritoneal dialysis.

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Quezalguaque, León, Nicaragua

Many researchers and locals theorize that contaminated water may be in the causal pathway for CKD. Here I am taking water samples with Christian from Quezalguaque’s Mancomunidad, an annex of the mayor’s office that works with water systems and emergency preparedness. My summer research team tested for hardness, bacteria and pesticides in various local water sources.

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Quezalguaque, León, Nicaragua

We also conducted sexual health charlas with local primary and secondary school students. During the second week of our three-week curriculum, we conducted oral health hygiene and practices assessments with the students.

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Quezalguaque, León, Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a huge ecotourism destination. This is one of the pristine beaches surrounding the resort town of San Juan del Sur.

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Quezalguaque, León, Nicaragua

The country also boasts a tremendous collection of mountains and both dormant and active volcanoes. Our team did A LOT of hikes. This is the view from the summit of San Cristóbal, the tallest volcano in the country.

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Quezalguaque, León, Nicaragua

Our group learned of the numerous ways in which to descend a volcano. I’m pictured here demonstrating the traditional “hiking” method on Las Maderas, one of the two volanoes that form Isla Ometepe.

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Quezalguaque, León, Nicaragua

Volcano boarding represents one of the more radical forms of volcano descent. This activity sits near the top of the list of the best activities in the world for thrill-seekers. Cerro Negro, León, Nicaragua.

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Quezalguaque, León, Nicaragua

One of the less desirable forms of volcano descent that we experienced is the “run as quickly as possible from the eruption” method. It appears that climbing active volcanoes comes with its challenges.

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Quezalguaque, León, Nicaragua

Without a doubt, though, Nicaragua’s greatest resource is its people. My host family is pictured here engaging in the great Nicaraguan pastime of “porch sitting.” My family own one of the bars in Quezalguaque, and, needless to say, they were not an uptight bunch to live with. I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality!

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