Our Mission

Our Department of Public Health is committed to educating professionals and conducting research to improve the health of communities in our region and beyond. We practice a combination of science and social approaches to reduce disease and systematically address the multiple determinants of health. Our work is rooted in strong partnerships with the community, health and social services, industry and business, academia, and the media.

News & Announcements

News & Announcements
ECU School of Rural Public Health
ECU to establish School of Rural Public Health
East Carolina University has announced plans to establish a new School of Rural Public Health in August of 2020 after the plans were approved by the UNC System Board of Governors' Committee on Educational Planning, Policies, and Programs last week.

"The approval for the establishment of this new School of Rural Public Health is another example of how our health sciences division continues to pioneer exciting new grounds, as it will be only the second school devoted to public health in the state," said ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton.

The new school will initially combine departments and centers already in existence at ECU - public health, health education and promotion, biostatistics, health services and information management and the Center for Health Disparities. These departments are currently spread throughout three separate buildings on the university's two campuses - the Brody School of Medicine, the College of Allied Health Sciences and the College of Health and Human Performance.

Kimberly van Noort, the UNC System's interim senior vice president for academic affairs, said the system was particularly excited about ECU's new School of Rural Public Health because it fits nicely with the outreach to rural communities and rural students that is part of the Board of Governors' strategic plan.

"We feel that it's a very important step by East Carolina University to recognize and to honor both their mission and the needs of the people of their surrounding community that they serve," van Noort said. "They have long been a leader in public health in the eastern part of North Carolina and indeed serve as the model for the entire state."

Dr. Phyllis Horns, vice chancellor of ECU's Division of Health Sciences, said the new school gives ECU a way to renew its commitment to the health of eastern North Carolinians.

"This is the next logical step in ECU being able to meet its mission of service to the people in this region of the state," Horns said. "We'll be able to do it in a more concentrated and focused way, by bringing faculty and students together under one roof so they can address those compelling health problems and health disparities in our region."

Dr. Ronny Bell, professor and chair of Brody's Department of Public Health, said the rural focus of the new school of public health aligns nicely with ECU's Rural Prosperity Initiative and creates a niche for the university.

"This gives us the opportunity to set ourselves apart from the rest of the programs in the nation, but also align ourselves with the mission of the school," Bell said. "There has to be a public health workforce that is responsive to the unique issues here in eastern North Carolina, and we feel like ECU is the ideal place to train those individuals."

During the 2016-2017 school year, ECU granted 46 percent of the UNC System's public health baccalaureate degrees and 29 percent of the master's degrees in the field. University officials anticipate the new school will have an enrollment of approximately 1,800 students when it opens based on current enrollment and projected growth.

ECU's first four doctoral students in public health started in spring 2018 with a concentration in health policy, administration and leadership and another concentration in environmental and occupational health.

Dr. John Morrow, director of Pitt County's Department of Public Health, said that integrating public health with other health care services is "the new frontier of health care." But he said North Carolina is accustomed to being a leader in health care, starting the nation's first county health department approximately 100 years ago and continuing to boast some of the world's best health care opportunities.

"This new School of Rural Public Health continues that pattern of excellence for North Carolina, and East Carolina University is a place where we will be able to see it really flourish," Morrow said. "We've always had this challenge of addressing all the social factors that lead to poor health in rural areas. This is a promise of better things to come for the health of the people of rural North Carolina."

Source: East Carolina University News Services



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Stephanie Jilcott Pitts
Best Practices for Financial Sustainability of Health Food Service Guidelines in Hospital Cafeterias

Dr. Pitts and colleagues examined barriers and facilitators to financial sustainability of healthy food service guidelines and synthesized best practices for financial sustainability hospital food retail environments. Results were published this week in Preventing Chronic Disease, found here: https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2018/17_0477.htm


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Stephanie Jilcott Pitts
MCS part of project with East Carolina

"Go Big or Go Bring It Home was the title of a project to encourage adolescents to make healthier dietary choices."

Dr. Stephanie Pitts explained the program to the Martin County board of Education members at their Tuesday, May 8 regularly scheduled meeting.

According to Dr. Pitts, this type of techonology-based program holds promise to improve other health behaviors.

"The purpose of the study was to test a randomized controlled trial of and eight-week, peer-led text messaging intervention among 14-16 year-old rural adolescents," she added.

the program was started at Riverside High School two years ago and was added at South Creek High School this year.

"It is a project to encourage adolescents to make healthier dietary choices," said Dr. Pitts.

In 2016-2017, East Carolina University partnered with Martin County Schools on a baseline/formative survey among students.

The baseline data informed the randomized controlled trial content, conducted in 2017-2018.

All participating students received incentives for participation, and there was also an incentive provided to the school.

"Eight schools were selected for the program - four schools in North Carolina and four schools in Kentucky. Two of the four schools in North Carolina were in Martin County," said Dr. Pitts.

"Text messages were primarily affective messages with a challenge each week related to consuming fruits, vegetables or low-calorie beverages," she added.

Undergraduate dietetics students sent text messages on Tuesdays and Thursdays via the "Group Me" mobile application.

Delayed controls received no further information or texts during the eight-week intervention.

"We received encouraging results. It is better than what we expected. We saw increased fruit and vegetable intake," Dr. Pitts said.

There was an increase in goal setting for increasing fruits and vegetables and reducing sugar-sweetened beverage intake among intervention relative to control students.

The next step for the program includes working on a grant proposal for similar projects.

The group is also working on a "Snap Snacks" project, using Snap Chat.

"We are looking into a $15,000 machine to tell vegetable intake and works by reading the skin," she said.

The organization plans to work with more graduate students to make the program more encouraging for students.

"We are hoping to utilize more interns in the future. We want to increase goal setting for increasing fruits and vegetables and reduce sugary-sweetened beverage intake among intervention relative to control students," Dr. Pitts closed.

Leslie Beachboard
Enterprise & Weekly Enterprise
Williamston, NC

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Greg Kearney
Congratulations Dr. Kearney, Dr. Jones and colleagues

Dr. Greg Kearney and Dr. Katherine Jones and colleagues recently had their paper " Asthma Rates Highest Among Poor, Minority Communities in Eastern N.C. - North Carolina Health News" published in North Carolina Health News.

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Huabin Luo
Study Finds People with Diabetes Visit the Dentist Less Frequently

A study led by researchers at East Carolina University and New York University showed that adults with diabetes are less likely to visit the dentist than people with prediabetes or without diabetes, even though they are at increased risk for periodontal disease.

The study, published by The Journal of the American Dental Association, used data from 2004 to 2014 that showed an overall decline in dental visits among adults with and without diabetes. People with diabetes were consistently the least likely to obtain oral health care.

You can learn more at this link http://blog.ecu.edu/sites/ecunow/blog/2018/04/12/study-diabetes-dentist-visits/


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Taras Grinchak

Name: Taras Grinchak
Major: Master of Public Health in Epidemiology
College: Department of Public Health, Brody School of Medicine, ECU
Year in School: 2nd year

Research In The Region

A private funding source for research at ECU's Brody School of Medicine is supporting pediatric asthma research by Dr. Greg Kearney.

Council on Education for Public Health


The ECU MPH Program is nationally accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). A copy of our final self-study report (2012) and a subsequent interim report (2013) on compliance with all accreditation criteria are available here. To request a copy of our official accreditation reports, please contact Wanda Strickland at stricklandw@ecu.edu or by calling (252) 744-4037.