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University of Michigan

Social Determinants of Health

University of Michigan via Coursera


This is an introductory course on social determinants of population health with a focus on the United States. The course will introduce you to, or reinforce your knowledge of, issues related to health that consider behavioral, psychological and structural factors in population health beyond the healthcare system. We will examine social, economic, and political factors that contribute to health inequalities and suggest innovative ways to reduce disparities in health when the goal is to achieve health equity.

This course will increase your awareness, knowledge, and understanding of issues related to behavioral, psychological, and structural factors that contribute to understanding population health and health inequities. We will discuss conceptual and methodological issues key to health professionals working towards achieving health equity to reduce health disparities at multiple levels of influence. There will be opportunities to practice skills involving cultural humility, deliberative dialogues and professional self-assessments.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:
Discuss the means by which structural bias, social inequalities and racism undermine health and create challenges to achieving health equity at organizational, community and societal levels


  • Course Overview, Definitions, and Levels of Influence
    • In this module, we introduce the concepts of health disparities and health equity, and we examine the historical factors that led to the health disparities we see today.
  • Disparities in Mortality and Morbidity by Psychosocial and Demographic Factors, Theoretical Considerations, and Environmental and Cultural Contexts
    • In this module we describe three conceptual frameworks and we examine how they can be usefully applied to understand disparities in mortality and morbidity and to achieve health equity.
  • Social Determinants of Health: The Healthcare System, Immigration Status, Sexual Identity, and Unconscious Bias
    • In this module we apply the social determinants of health framework to the healthcare system, immigration status, and sexual identity, paying special attention to unconscious bias.
  • Racism, Discrimination; Culture, Gender and Power; Changing Structures that Reproduce Bias and Harm Health
    • In this module we dive deeper into racism and discrimination, as well as culture, gender and power, and we examine how we can achieve health equity by changing the structures that reproduce bias and harm health.

Taught by

Cleopatra Caldwell

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