Dec 02, 2020  
2009-2010 Downtown Campus Catalog 
2009-2010 Downtown Campus Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Health and Behavioral Sciences

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Director: Richard Miech
Program Assistant: Abby Fitch
Mailing Address: Program in Health and Behavioral Sciences, Campus Box 188, P.O. Box 173364, Denver, CO 80217-3364
Office Location: Administrative Building, 280
Telephone: 303-556-4300
Fax: 303-556-8501
Web site:


Stephen Koester, PhD, University of Colorado
Deborah Main, PhD, University of Colorado
Associate Professors:
Sheana Bull, PhD, Georgia State University
Richard Miech, PhD, University of North Carolina
David Tracer, PhD, University of Michigan
Assistant Professors:
Ronica Rooks, PhD, University of Maryland College Park
Sara Yeatman, PhD, University of Texas Austin
Research Faculty:
Susan Dreisbach, PhD, University of Colorado
Sharry Erzinger, DrPH, University of California Berkeley
Jean Scandlyn, PhD, Columbia University
Adjunct Faculty:
John Brett
Lucinda Bryant
Lauren Clark
Mary Coussons-Read
Estevan Flores
Karen Gottlieb
Cornelius Rietmeijer


The mission of the health and behavioral sciences (HBSC) program is to apply social science theory and innovative research methods to critically address emerging issues in health. The program trains students to confront issues affecting the health of communities and populations by focusing on social determinants of health and diseases. These determinants can be more influential on population health than the health care system.

The program’s overarching framework integrates social, cultural and biomedical perspectives to understand the underpinnings of health and the conditions essential for its creation and maintenance. Students and faculty conduct interdisciplinary research on topics including emerging diseases, maternal/child health, substance abuse, health disparities and global health. Graduates are innovative researchers, effective educators and leaders directly engaged in the practice of public health.

Undergraduate Program in Community Health Science

The health and behavioral sciences program is committed to the principle that understanding the basic social, cultural and biological dimensions of health is fundamental to a solid liberal arts and sciences undergraduate education. HBSC has developed a minor in community health science  that provides undergraduates with the basic intellectual and methodological tools needed to understand the societal contexts of health, health care and public health. We expect that graduates with a minor in community health science will be successful in their pursuit of graduate degrees in a broad range of fields including the biomedical sciences, social and behavioral sciences, public health, law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, business administration and health services research. The program is especially appropriate for students who intend to pursue careers in public health as well as medicine, nursing, health policy and administration. Students seeking the minor should contact CLAS advising and the health and behavioral sciences program with specific questions.

A major is not currently available, but students may complete an individually structured major (ISM) that combines course work in HBS with that of related fields such as anthropology, biology and psychology. Students should consult the Individually Structured Major  section in this catalog for a description of ISM programs and with CLAS Advising or the HBSC program regarding specific questions.



PhD Program in Health and Behavioral Sciences

The doctor of philosophy degree in health and behavioral sciences is rooted in the realization that our ability as a global society to overcome some of the most significant and intractable public health problems today rests on the willingness of biomedical and social science researchers to innovate across traditional disciplinary boundaries. Students are trained in theory from multiple disciplines and in both quantitative and qualitative research methods.

Although a master’s degree is not provided by the health and behavioral sciences department, two relevant master’s programs currently exist at UC Denver, as described in the PhD program requirements for admission.

A student’s particular research focus constitutes a key part of his or her doctoral program. A range of possible foci exists, given the particular student’s interest and faculty expertise. Examples of HBSC research foci include:

  • Social determinants of health. Such research interests include studies on the health-related influences of socioeconomic position, social and economic inequality, discrimination, social networks and support, social capital, work conditions and psychological states including stress.
  • Community health. This area of research involves community health assessment; program design and evaluation; translation of evidence-based interventions to diverse populations and communities; participatory research and community mobilization; policy analysis and advocacy for health-related problems.
  • Biosocial ecology. Within this area are studies of the interplay of biological (including physiological, genetic or others of the biomedical health sciences), social, cultural and environmental characteristics influencing maternal/infant health, exercise performance or susceptibility to disease.
  • Global health topics include social, cultural and biomedical factors influencing transmission of disease and health disparities on an international (as well as national) scale.

Recent student research exemplifying such foci includes:

  • social factors affecting newly emerging diseases in the American Southwest
  • factors that contribute to positive perceived health in the older-aged population
  • ethnic group differences in weight gain and cardiovascular disease
  • the impact of natural hazards and risk management strategies on health among pastoral herders in Mongolia
  • adolescent sexual risk behaviors in the context of social networks and cultural norms
  • disease incidence patterns and environmental contamination in north Casper, Wyoming

Graduates of the HBSC program acquire skills that situate them for leadership roles in public health. Depending upon a student’s concentration, the successful graduate will gain expertise in research design and methods; social, cultural and biobehavioral determinants of health and disease; the structure and organization of health care systems; the contribution of individual, social and cultural factors for deciding health behaviors; and how guided change in health care systems may enhance quality, efficacy and access. The significance of these skills in addressing current complex health issues ensures that graduates will be in demand in a number of employment sectors ranging from community and public health organizations, to academic institutions, to nonprofit research organizations and to private health care settings.





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