Understanding the Social Determinants of Health: Theories and Research

Professor: DeSantis
Units: 1.0
Elective Course
Concentration: Social Science

The United States spends more money per capita on health care than any other industrialized nation, yet the country is still plagued by poor population health outcomes and health disparities, especially among racial/ethnic minority groups. Social determinants of health (SDOH) are at the root of these disparities, and include nonmedical factors such as social disadvantage, risk exposure, and social inequity.

This course will familiarize students with theory and models of the social disadvantage approach (e.g., SES and fundamental causes of disease) and health equity approach (e.g., inequities that stem from socio-demographic factors such as class, immigration status, gender) to examining SDOH across various contexts (e.g., family, neighborhoods, and states).

Proposed topics include: immigration status and health; neighborhood conditions (food deserts and walkability); potential mediating/moderating role of social support, social capital, and social networks; structural violence and racism/discrimination (including behavioral and physiologic responses to stress) in the U.S. and other countries; macro-level income inequality within and across countries; and working conditions.