About Us

The Vermont Center on Behavior and Health (VCBH) was established in 2013 to study the relationship between behavior and health. The VCBH has become a vibrant research center supported by multiple federal grants including a Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (TCORS) Award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)/Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) Award from the National Institute on General Medical Sciences. A complete list of our other grants can be found here.

Research, Education, Community

higginswithira_004
The VCBH resides within the College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, with the director and administrative offices being located within the Department of Psychiatry. Participating investigators, collaborators, and advisors represent multiple academic departments in the College of Medicine and four colleges within UVM as well as three other universities (Brown, Johns Hopkins and Kentucky). The VCBH is further strengthened by interdisciplinary collaborations with key community healthcare leaders and distinguished scientific advisory panels.

adesThe focus of the VCBH is on investigating relationships between personal behaviors and risk for chronic disease and premature death, with a specific focus on understanding mechanisms underpinning risk, and developing effective interventions and policies to promote healthy behavior. A common thread across VCBH research projects is the application of knowledge from the disciplines of behavioral economics and behavioral pharmacology to: (a) increase understanding of vulnerability to unhealthy behavior, and (b) the use of incentives and other behavioral and pharmacological interventions to support healthy behavior change interventions and policies.

The contribution of socioeconomic factors to vulnerability and the need for interventions and policies to promote health and reduce disparities in disadvantaged populations is an overarching VCBH focus. To our knowledge, the VCBH is the only NIH-funded center that is applying the disciplines of behavioral economics and behavioral pharmacology to tackling these enormous, interrelated U.S. public health challenges.

From the Director

The VCBH is an interdisciplinary center of research excellence committed to investigating relationships between personal behavior patterns (i.e., lifestyle) and risk for chronic disease and premature death. Unhealthy behaviors (e.g., tobacco and other substance abuse, physical inactivity, obesity, risky sexual behavior) represent the leading cause of chronic disease and premature deaths in the U.S. and are a major driver behind spiraling health-care costs. Importantly, these risk behaviors are overrepresented among socioeconomically disadvantaged populations and are major contributors to the problem of health disparities.

There is a tremendous need for greater scientific understanding of the mechanisms underpinning vulnerability to these risk behaviors and for more effective interventions and policies to promote healthy behavior. The VCBH will leverage knowledge from the disciplines of behavioral economics and behavioral pharmacology to better understand and support healthy behavior change.

Stephen T. Higgins, Ph.D.