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University of Minnesota

Social Epidemiology

University of Minnesota via Coursera

This course may be unavailable.


This course is about understanding the determinants of health from a broad perspective. We focus on how social relationships and institutions -- such as familial relationships, national policies, and global economic forces -- promote or undermine the health of populations. The course covers existing evidence of health disparities, research methods, and theories relevant to the topic.

The course is interesting because it reveals the so-called fundamental causes of disease and health disparities recognizable within social groups. For example, we examine why a flu germ can affect whole groups of people differently. In short, the course challenges the notion that health is a narrowly defined medical problem.

Students in the course will listen to lectures, read provided materials, and complete quizzes and tests that examine comprehension and one's ability to synthesize ideas.

Upon completion of the course students should:
  • have a deep appreciation for how social arrangements impact the health of populations,
  • be able to critically evaluate the scientific and popular health literature that address the causes of disease,
  • be able to measure key social drivers such as race and socioeconomic status, and 
  • be able to conceive of research strategies that can answer questions critical for policy making.


Week 1:  Background and History
What is social epidemiology and where did it come from? What is different about it?

Week 2: Issues
What are the fundamental issues (e.g., environment, race, genetics) in/for social epidemiology?

Week 3: Health Disparities 
How can social epidemiology improve our understanding of the identification and analysis of, if not remedies for, health disparities?

Week 4: Theories and Constructs
What theories and/or constructs are fundamental to social epidemiology?

Week 5: Measurement
What are some fundamental measurement issues in social epidemiology?

Week 6: Design & Inference
What are some fundamental design and analysis tools in social epidemiology?

Week 7: Doing Things
What social epidemiological interventions work and fail, and why?

Taught by

Michael Oakes


4.0 rating, based on 1 Class Central review

Start your review of Social Epidemiology

  • A rigorous introduction to the field of 'Social Epi'; course content got a little dry at times but was full of good relevant information. Students with a bit of a background in social medicine or epidemiology will find this course useful to complement their learning. One for the enthusiasts, although the lecturer obviously loves his course content:)

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