School of Public Health


EPI 548 Research Methods For Social And Contextual Determinants Of Health (3)

Explores study-design, measurement, analytic, and interpretation issues applicable to research on social and contextual determinants of health and health disparities. This lecture/seminar course is offered to graduate students with knowledge of epidemiologic and biostatistical principles who are interested in understanding complex relationships between social/contextual factors and health. Prerequisite: EPI 511 or EPI 512/513; and BIOST 511/512/513 or BIOST 517/518. Credit/no-credit only. Offered: jointly with HSERV 548; W.

Winter 2021

Line Number Section ID Credits Days/Times Room/Bldg Instructor
14595A3.0Monday, Wednesday @ 11:30am - 12:50pmN/AAnjum Hajat
For a complete listing of Epidemiology courses, their elective categories, and when they are typically offered, please see the Epidemiology Course Planning Sheet

Additional Course Details

This 3-unit credit/no-credit course will explore study design and analytic issues applicable to research on the social determinants of health (SDH) and health disparities. 

Topics Covered

  • Conceptual models
  • Study design
  • Measurement of socioeconomic status
  • Ecologic studies
  • Multi-level studies
  • Longitudinal studies
  • Network analysis
  • Marginal structural models
  • Mediation analysis    

Learning Objectives

  • List at least 4 approaches to assessing causality and explain their strengths and weaknesses when applied to the SDH
  • Construct a framework depicting the relationship between social factors and health outcomes based on an underlying conceptual theory in the field  
  • Develop a conceptual model to accurately and parsimoniously reflects the core factors related to a social factors influence on health and that presents a testable pathway for a hypothesis
  • Identify the key features of traditional and non-traditional epidemiologic study designs to test hypotheses related to the SDH
  • Distinguish between SDH research questions with 2 or more units of analysis (multi-level) and those with a single unit of analysis and compare and contrast the interpretation of the results
  • Compare and contrast individual and group level measures of the same SDH construct, and describe the relationship between them
  • List, describe and compare the advantages and limitations of commonly used measures of SES in SDH research.
  • Describe the strengths and the inherit limitations of ecologic data and its analysis and list methods to decrease the likelihood of biased results
  • Apply the concept of multi-level analyses to space-dependent and time-dependent SDH data structures and describe their appropriate statistical models  
  • Demonstrate competence interpreting statistical output for ecologic, multi-level, and longitudinal analytic approaches
  • Describe the application of network, marginal structural models, and mediation analyses to SDH research  
  • Understand how inverse probability weights are constructed and can be applied to SDH research  
  • Critically review the published literature addressing the SDH and provide a methods-based critique of the scientific approach  
  • Convey in writing the basic concepts and understandings of SDH research methods through 3-page critique of a journal article

Course Format

Lectures and class discussion, class participation, journal article critique, homework

Contact the Instructors

Anjum Hajat (
Nicholas Smith (