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Social and Behavioral Sciences

Understanding how people think, feel, or behave in specific situations, and how they interact and organize to influence the world around them is critical to building effective public health systems.

In the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, our research explores how social systems, community values, historic inequities, and psychological states affect public health policies, programs, and outcomes. We often collaborate with community members in their neighborhoods, workplaces and recreational spaces, to identify priority health concerns and to develop potential solutions, and are uniquely focused on mental and behavioral aspects of public health systems research in preparedness and emergency response.

Research Highlights

How to Steward Medical Countermeasures and Public Trust in an Emergency: A Communication Casebook for FDA and its Public Health Partners

How FDA and other U.S. government officials convey information about medical countermeasures (MCMs) will affect uptake, compliance, and ultimately survival in the aftermath of a natural disease emergency or a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) attack. Moreover, effective communication regarding MCMs has the potential to strengthen psychological resilience as well as engender public trust in science, government, and public health.

Agricultural Exceptionalism at the State Level: Characterization of Wage and Hour Laws for U.S. Farmworkers

Farmworkers continue to belong to particularly vulnerable social and economic groups. U.S. states can establish their own labor protections that go beyond federal laws and regulations. Though agricultural exceptionalism is understood at the federal level, little is known about agricultural exceptionalism in state labor standards.

Persistence of Livestock-associated Antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus Among Industrial Hog Operation Workers in North Carolina Over 14 days

Changes in swine production practices may affect the health of persons living near or working in production sites. Among these practices, the use of antibiotics to prevent disease and promote animal growth rather than to treat infections is extremely common, with the majority of antibiotics sold in the USA used non-therapeutically via supplementation of water and feed consumed by food animals. There is evidence that routine, non-therapeutic uses of these drugs increase the risk of development and propagation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria,  and studies have shown that antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be transmitted to humans working in production sites and mobilised from these sites via multiple environmental pathways.

Associated Faculty

*Denotes faculty who are accepting PhD students.