Research

Behavioral Sciences and Health Education faculty members are renowned scholars in the areas of behavioral risk factor trajectories, social determinants of health, health disparities, health education, behavioral interventions, and dissemination and implementation. 

Their research is funded by federal government organizations such as the National Institutes of Health (e.g. NCI, NIEHS, NIAAA, NIDA, NIMH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Resources and Services Administration, Association of Schools of Public Health, and private foundations such as the American Legacy Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. They also work with the Georgia Division of Public Health and local health departments in Georgia and across the nation.

Our faculty work in diverse areas that involve social-ecological determinants of health and diseases. The areas span major disease problems (HIV/AIDS, cancer, and heart disease), specific populations (adolescents, women, minority groups, rural communities), multiple health promotion settings (schools, communities, churches, the Internet) and specific behavioral and social problems (substance abuse, tobacco control, nutrition, physical activity, injury prevention, health communication). Students have many opportunities to work with faculty on these research projects.

Below you will find the major areas of research in BSHE:

Societal factors have a large influence on health behaviors of individuals and populations. Many of the factors have been well-described – negative influences such as segregation and poverty, and protective influences such as community cohesiveness that can buffer these effects. Understanding how to measure these competing forces and to evaluate their influence on health-behaviors and outcomes is key to inform social policy and organizational-level interventions. 

Examples of research topics currently being investigated by BSHE Faculty:

  • Factors influencing African Americans’ willingness to participate in organ donation.
  • Access to cancer screening and treatment services among the uninsured or underinsured.
  • Social factors influencing early unplanned pregnancy.
  • The role of urban redevelopment and housing policies on HIV and substance use.
  • Impact of community group outreach on safe sex as a norm among gay and bisexual men.

Understanding the occurrence and distribution of behaviors that undermine or promote health is a key initial step that can inform the development of effective interventions. Risk behaviors with significant public health impact include tobacco and substance use, sexual risk taking, poor diet and physical inactivity. Further, identifying how patterns of these behaviors change over the life course can inform the optimal timing for effective interventions.

Examples of research topics currently being investigated by BSHE Faculty:

  • Risk and protective factors for alcohol and other substance use across the lifespan.
  • Uptake of novel nicotine delivery systems among young adults.
  • Pregnancy prevention and sexual well-being during adolescence and emerging adulthood.
  • Patterns of sexually transmitted infections and substance abuse among men who have sex with men, and vulnerable populations such as refugees.
  • Risk and protective factors for sexually transmitted infections and HIV acquisition among high risk populations in US and abroad.

Interventions to influence health behaviors can be directed to individuals, households, organizations or policies. Identifying the components of interventions that are amenable to public health settings and influential in promoting healthful-behaviors, household and organizational contexts and related social policies is important. Typically, these interventions rely in part on effective health communication strategies that consider health literacy, cultural contexts and target audiences.

Examples of research topics currently being investigated by BSHE Faculty:

  • Culturally-sensitive interventions to improve access to transplantation among African Americans.
  • Reducing smoking among survivors of childhood cancers.
  • Mindfulness interventions to prevent and manage depression and anxiety.
  • Socioeconomic, cultural, and environmental determinants of health in conjunction with how psychosocial and spiritual factors contribute to a woman’s health and wellness.
  • Contribution of lay patient navigation on cancer screening, treatment adherence, and quality of life post treatment.

Once an evidence base is available to support the effectiveness of an intervention, efforts are needed to disseminate the intervention to target audiences who can benefit. Often this involves additional steps to: build work force capacity that is needed to implement the intervention, adapt the intervention to specific social or organizational contexts, and assess options for sustaining the intervention for the long run.

Examples of research topics currently being investigated by BSHE Faculty:

  • Development of a nationwide workforce of lifestyle coaches to address diabetes.
  • Chronic disease mobile text messaging as a prevention and maintenance strategy.
  • Impact of online peer learning networks on public health collaboration and evidence based practice.
  • Engagement of rural communities in strategic planning and partnerships.