Social determinants of health

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Social Determinants of Health

The importance of broad social factors on health outcomes including infectious diseases has long been recognized. These social determinants of health (SDH) are the conditions in which people live and the wider set of forces that affect health. SDH include physical (e.g. characteristics of the natural and built environments), economic (e.g. poverty), social (e.g. discrimination, cultural factors), and political (e.g., laws and policies) systems. Many of these factors influence exposures to and consequences of infectious diseases, and faculty in EMD work on these issues locally, nationally, and globally because understanding and addressing SDH is critical to achieving greater health equity.

Some examples of EMD faculty working on social determinants of health include:

  • Dr. Ko’s research focuses on infectious diseases such as leptospirosis and dengue that emerge and persist in urban slum areas due to rapid urbanization and social inequity. 
  • Dr. Niccolai’s research uses area-based measures of poverty, race, and ethnicity to document disparities that exist across neighborhoods in Connecticut in reportable infectious diseases. She also studies how the social determinants of mass incarceration and housing instability interact to increase risk for HIV among poor individuals. 
  • Dr. Gonsalves studies how social and economic policies can address the potential for infections such as HIV and cholera to spread, and he studies human rights issues related to access to treatment for infectious diseases.

Student Resources and Centers

Relevant Courses

  • Implementation Science EMD 533 Reforming Health Systems EMD 580/HPM 580
  • Global Health and Justice Practicum EMD 596/SBS 596