College of Public Health students graduating

Health Behavior

Dr. Mark Swanson Leads Community-Based Programming to Improve Healthy Food Access

Dr. Mark Swanson, associate professor in the Health Behavior department in the College of Public Health, serves as the principal investigator on an NIH grant that funds the Appal-TREE Project (Appalachians Together Restoring the Eating Environment). The project is a collaborative community project, based in Whitesburg, Kentucky, that seeks to increase access to healthy foods in the eastern part of the state. Dr. Swanson is joined on the project by Dr. Nancy Schoenberg, Associate Dean for Research in the College of Public Health and Marion Pearsall Professor in the College of Medicine's department of Behavioral Science; Dr. Heather Bush, associate professor of Biostatistics in the College of Public Health, Dr. Janet Mullins, associate extension professor, and Dr. Alison Gustafson, assistant professor in the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment.


The Department of Health Behavior is the academic home to eight tenure track professors, two professors in the clinical title series, one in a research title series, and one emeritus professor. The department also has 3 part-time instructors and typically employs six teaching assistants per semester. A department administrator (Courtney Brown) and a department financial assistant (Jessica Heskel) provide support services to the faculty and serve as the coordinators with the college business office and the larger infrastructure of the university. The department also houses a full time project director of a federally funded study of Latino farm workers, a CDC-funded Prevention Research Center (known as the Rural Cancer Prevention Center), and a CDC-funded project that is part of a multi-state consortium dedicated to cancer prevention in the U.S. Faculty currently hold awards for more than twenty grant-funded projects, including awards from CDC, the National Institutes of Mental Health, and the National Institute of Children’s Health and Development. Grant-funded projects span a range of topics from the creation and development of farm-to-school food systems in rural southeastern Kentucky to a randomized controlled trial of an HIV prevention program for young Black males residing in Jackson, MS. Collectively, the grant-funded projects employ more than twenty staff members.

Department faculty participate in the training of students enrolled in the DrPH program, but emphasis at the graduate level is focused on the 15 to 20 students per year who enroll in the MPH program and declare a concentration in Health Behavior. DrPH and MPH alumni of the department hold public health positions throughout the U.S. and in other countries. The department also is heavily engaged in undergraduate teaching, providing general education courses to the university (such as Introduction to Public Health, and a newer course known as Sexual Health) and providing courses to students enrolled in the newly inaugurated Bachelor’s of Public Health program. In 2014 alone, department faculty instructed over 1,000 hours of graduate and undergraduate coursework. This accomplishment is important given that so many department faculty members have obligated the majority of their working time to grant sponsors.

Collectively, Health Behavior faculty members have published over 700 peer-reviewed manuscripts, 7 textbooks that are used in other accredited schools of public health, and they regularly present their academic work at national conferences such as those held by American Public Health Association, the National Cancer Institute, and the Society of Behavioral Medicine. Several teaching awards have been bestowed to faculty members of the department and teaching evaluations from graduate and undergraduate students are consistently high. With the support of the administrator, the financial assistant, and the staff members, the department handled over $7,000,000 in grant funds in 2014.

Richard A. Crosby, PhD
Chair Department of Health Behavior
College of Public Health
University of Kentucky