The Social and Spatial Epidemiology unit seeks to understand the ways in which social, political, cultural, environmental and economic circumstances influence our chances for a healthy life. We combine theory from the social sciences with rigorous epidemiological and geographic methods so that we can illuminate the connections between social factors and health and use what we find to improve health. Within this broad frame we have a special interest in the connections between social inequalities and health inequalities.
The unit has four aims. First, we aim to produce knowledge about the influence of social circumstances and place on health with a special emphasis on social inequalities in health. Second, we aim to train and mentor a new generation of scholars and practitioners who have the capacity to conduct rigorous research on the role of social factors in health. Third, we aim to leverage what we learn to improve population health and reduce health inequalities locally, nationally, and across international borders. Fourth we seek to translate and disseminate our work to policy makers, thought leaders, media, and the public and reinforce the message that social determinants of health are primary drivers of population health. Anchored upstream from the more proximal determinants of disease, research in the social and spatial epidemiology unit engages collaboratively with the other epidemiology units in the Department, so that the full cascade of influences on health from social conditions to biology can be understood. Students benefit from close ties to the Departments of Sociology and Psychology and the School of Social Work.