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University of Michigan

The Influence of Social Context on Health

University of Michigan via Coursera


Why are some groups healthier than others, and how do these differences emerge and persist over the life course? How do social policies (e.g., housing, transportation, employment) relate to health and health inequalities? Why are there health disparities even in countries that have free universal health care? This course will address conceptual models for understanding health disparities in the US and internationally, how population science identifies the main sources of these disparities, and how public health can inform policy efforts to address these disparities.

After taking this course, you will be able to identify ways in which conditions in the healthcare setting and at work, school, and home influence health; identify models for considering how the social context provides both sources of stress and sources of support for health; and explain how social and physical environments, including schools and workplaces, the healthcare system, and neighborhoods, shape health and health inequalities over the life course.


  • Week 1
    • This unit will introduce the social determinants of health framework and provide an overview of how stress and social connections impact health.
  • Week 2
    • This unit will provide an overview of the ways in which the work and school contexts shape health.
  • Week 3
    • This unit will introduce the healthcare system and discuss its impact on health disparities.
  • Week 4
    • This unit will explore ways in which neighborhoods and the environment affect health.

Taught by

Briana Mezuk and Belinda Needham


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