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two people at a UAB wellness promotion boothToday public, private, and governmental health agencies recognize the need for community health promotion and advocacy. In light of initiatives such as Healthy People 2020 and its goal to “increase the quality, availability, and effectiveness of educational and community-based programs designed to prevent disease and injury, improve health, and enhance the quality of life,” the demand for skilled health education specialists continues to expand.

The Ph.D. program in Community Health Promotion offers a broad-based curriculum emphasizing biological, behavioral, and socio-cultural determinants of health, as well as interventions and policies aimed at improving community health. The curriculum provides students with the coursework, background, and practical experiences to become leading researchers and practitioners in the broad and rapidly growing field of health education and health promotion.

Students learn the skills needed to work with individuals and communities to assess health needs, and then effectively plan, implement and evaluate culturally appropriate and theoretically based interventions to improve and promote health and lessen unhealthy behaviors by addressing knowledge, attitudes, skills, and beliefs in various settings.

By the conclusion of the program, students are able to conceptualize the theoretical and philosophical basis of health promotion clearly and conduct their own independent research projects. The curriculum prepares students for careers in academia, clinical research, and leadership roles in the community and public health promotion in private industry, as well as non-profit and governmental health organizations.

Health Education Accreditation

Certified Health Education Specialists (CHES®) are individuals who have met the standards of competence established by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing Inc. (NCHEC) and have successfully passed the CHES® examination. NCHEC serves to enhance the professional practice of Health Education by promoting and sustaining a credentialed body of Health Education Specialists.

The CHES® credential establishes a national and international standard for members of the profession and ensures prospective employers that an individual has taken the initiative to pursue additional certification, and is proficient in evidence-based planning, implementing, evaluating, and advocating for the health of communities.

NCHEC developed a rigorous set of professional standards known as the Responsibilities and Competencies for Certified Health Education Specialists. These standards serve as a framework for the profession, illustrating the knowledge, required skills, and expertise needed for a position in the field of health education and promotion.

CHHS Faculty utilized these standards as a framework for the development of the Ph.D. in Community Health Promotion, including coursework in the health promotion core. This curriculum meets the academic qualifications for eligibility and adequately prepares students to sit for the CHES® examination. Although not a requirement, many students sit for and pass this important exam. This is in part due to the increasing demand to have credentialed health education specialists on the job; particularly, if part of the job responsibilities include training health educators in post-secondary settings.

Application Deadline

Cohort admission occurs once per year in the Fall. In order to be considered for admission for the Fall term, all application materials must be submitted by April 30.

  • Applying for Admission

    Candidates for admission must enter the program with a master's degree in health education, community health, human services, or other related field from an accredited institution.

    Applying for admission to the Community Health Promotion PhD program begins with completing an online application through the UAB Graduate School.

    • Complete and submit online application for admission to the Graduate School
    • Submit all required materials (see ‘indicators’ below)
    • Pay application fee online with credit card/debit card
    • Ask the individuals from whom you request references to respond online to the form they will receive via email from the Graduate School (This form is sent automatically to your references by UAB as soon as you submit your application).
    • Request transcripts from all prior institutions to be sent to UAB including institutions where you might have taken only one course (information on how to do this is provided in Apply Yourself). The preferred email addresses for electronic submission of transcripts are as follows: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
    • Submit official TOEFL or IELTS test score (for international applicants only) NOTE: International applicants must also meet all requirements stipulated at http://www.uab.edu/graduate/international. This includes mailing your Financial Affidavit of Support.

    The admissions committee considers these indicators when making admission decisions:

    • Graduate degree (minimum of a master's) in a health-related field
    • Transcripts
    • Professional resume/CV – make sure to include professional experience, presentations and publications.
    • Admissions Essay - In approximately two single-spaced pages, explain why you are applying to this program. When writing this essay, consider these questions: What life experiences led to your decision to apply and what attracted you to this program? What are your research interests and career goals? How will this program help you pursue those research interests and career goals?
    • GPA (minimum of 3.25 on previous graduate work)
    • Three recommendations/letters of reference

    If the admissions committee feels the student is a good candidate for the program, a faculty member from the committee will be in contact for an interview.

  • Curriculum

    The PhD curriculum in Community Health Promotion is comprised of five areas:

    Health Promotion Core – There is an increased awareness of the impact of social determinants (ethnicity, income, housing, education) on health outcomes. As a result, the CDC, NIH and other health agencies have placed emphasis on social determinants of health (SDH) and health disparities through funding initiatives to promote improved research, policy and practice. By focusing on SDH, health education specialists can improve health outcomes and advance health equity. This program requires a Health Promotion core, infused with training in using the SDH as a framework for planning, implementing and evaluating successful health interventions.

    Research and Statistics Core – Today, health promotion researchers must have training in mixed research methodologies to understand the complex issues that confront community health. Interest in mixed-methods research is growing among funders, as evidenced by recent calls for proposals using these methods from the NIH, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, as well as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This program requires mixed methods, qualitative and quantitative research methodologies.

    Health Sciences Concentration – These courses allow students the flexibility to receive education and training in their particular area of interest from across UAB. This program provides a professional health promotion curriculum that brings together students from a variety of social/behavioral backgrounds to provide the appropriate training and mentorship to develop health-related research.

    Supervised Research Core – This core allows students to gain valuable research experience under the supervision of faculty while earning credit hours toward their PhD. Students will work with faculty on research projects and grants, and/or the development of scholarly publications or professional conference presentations. In addition, students will work with their mentor to develop a dissertation proposal. A minimum of 12 credit hours are required, or until the successful completion of a dissertation proposal defense.

    Dissertation – These hours are designed to provide students with significant research experience on their topic of interest and requires the completion of 18 credit hours, or until the completion of the dissertation.

    This program requires students to complete a minimum of 72 semester hours.

    Program Co-requisites

    Students must enter the program with a master's degree in health education, or a closely related field. Students with a limited background in health education/health promotion may be required to take program co-requisites during years one and two, including CHHS 610 Foundations of Health Education (or equivalent), CHHS 631 Planning (or equivalent), and CHHS 697 Community-Based Approaches to Evaluation and Grantsmanship (or equivalent). These additional requirements will be determined from a review of transcripts by the Graduate Program Coordinator after admission to the program.

  • Comprehensive Examination

    All PhD candidates must sit for a comprehensive examination, which is offered on the third Thursday of January and June of each year. This exam should be prepared for by individual study expanding on the content covered in the health promotion core courses. The exam must be passed unconditionally before student’s can defend their dissertation proposal and be advanced to candidacy. Students must be registered for at least three semester hours of graduate work during the semester(s) in which the comprehensive exam is taken.

    The comprehensive exam is a criterion-referenced assessment — students do not compete with other students. Students should NOT assume that “A” level performance in their coursework as adequate preparation for passing the comprehensive exam. To prepare, students should review all materials from the HP core courses as well as other supplementary material. Students should review health education theory and program planning, implementation, and evaluation materials not only from their prior coursework but also from a range of self-selected documents, websites, and texts. The core courses provide background information and a blueprint for their own regimen of self-study — students must demonstrate broad mastery of the subject matter and intellectual growth. Each student must be able to synthesize and apply what has been learned in order to design an appropriate, theory-based intervention to address the chosen health issue/population. Students must be able to specify why a program is necessary, how it can be achieved, who will be involved during implementation, and how results might best be used. It is recommended that students preparing for their comps work with other students, share materials, discuss key concepts with faculty members, and confer with students who have already passed the exam.


    To qualify to sit for comprehensive exams, students must have successfully completed the health promotion core courses:

    • Advanced Theoretical Approaches in Health Promotion CHHS 731
    • Advanced Planning and Implementation in Health Promotion CHHS 732
    • Evaluation and Research Methods in Health Promotion CHHS 740
    • Health Disparities in Diverse Populations CHHS 742
  • Dissertation and Final Defense

    The dissertation represents the culmination of a significant research experience. Students begin work on their dissertation only after they have completed all coursework, passed the comprehensive examination, organized their dissertation committee, defended their dissertation proposal, and gained admission to candidacy.

    The dissertation committee consists of a minimum of five faculty members and typically includes a chair, methodologist, content expert(s), and other interested faculty. The chair must be faculty from the CHHS program in the School of Education and Human Sciences. While the chair may assist with the formation of the committee, it is the student's responsibility to invite committee members. Students finalize their committee selections by completing and submitting the Graduate Student Committee Letter to the Graduate School and work closely with their committee to develop a dissertation proposal. Before beginning dissertation research, students must have successfully defended their dissertation proposal, be admitted to candidacy, and submit the proper paperwork to the Graduate School. Students cannot collect or analyze data ahead of committee or IRB approval.

    PhD candidates should set the date and time of their final defenses well in advance, making certain that all committee members can attend. Candidates are also responsible for furnishing committee members with complete copies of their manuscripts by a date of the committee’s choosing. They must make all requested changes or corrections to the manuscript as soon as possible after the defense and obtain signatures of all committee members and the Program Director on the appropriate approval form. Each candidate must submit a completed dissertation for online review to the Graduate School no later than two weeks (10 business days) after the final defense.

    Additional information about graduation requirements may be found in the Graduate Catalog, Graduate Student Handbook or by contacting the Graduate School staff via email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or phone (205-934-8227).

Financial Support

For highly qualified first-year Ph.D. students, the UAB Graduate School supports a small number of Blazer Graduate Research Fellowships. The position requires full-time enrollment (9 hrs/semester Fall/Sp/Su) to be considered for funding. Full-time UAB employees are not eligible for these funds. These funds vary from year to year and are awarded on a competitive basis.

Explore these links for additional sources for funding your Ph.D.!

Finally, Ph.D. students who have a background in health promotion may be hired as adjunct faculty to teach undergraduate health education courses. For more information, contact the Graduate Program Director.

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