Social and Environmental Determinants of Health

Social and Environmental Determinants of Health- The Social Lens

Social determinants of health (as opposed to biological determinants of health) are social and economic factors that shape whether a person (or a population) gets sick or stays healthy. These social factors consists of complex, integrated, and overlapping social structures and economic systems that shape health inequalities evident in our local, national, and global communities. From a sociological perspective, social determinants of health must take into account historical, cultural, structural, and critical factors to thoroughly understand why health disparities exists based on intersectional inequalities such as race, social class, and gender. Untangling this complexity in necessary in order to inform the types of upstream, primary, or structural interventions that are needed to address health inequalities.

Social and Environmental Determinants of Health- Implementing at Georgia Tech

Our nation is experiencing a national paradigm shift. The focus has been on medical care, spending about 80% of our health care dollars on 20% of the population, and it isn’t working. However, we are moving in a positive direction as we shift to a proactive, health care system from a reactive, medical system.

Sustainable Cities Studio

In this course, we partner with Central Atlanta Progress, who recently completed the Downtown Atlanta Master Plan (https://www.atlantadowntown.com/initiatives/master-plan), focusing specifically on the goals outlined in chapter 5 regarding restoration of the urban forest downtown and enhancing green infrastructure. Students will break into disciplinary teams to accomplish two goals: 1. Compile or create evidence to support the planning goals and their outcomes outlined in chapter 5, and 2. Identify opportunities and implementation strategies to enhance green infrastructure downtown.

Food Literacy of Atlanta

In the past decade Atlanta has undergone phenomenal changes in infrastructure, and food culture because of two things: being a beta-hub in the tech industry, and tax credits that have cultivated a thriving film industry. This influx of people, money, and innovation, restaurant culture has seen tremendous growth. This Serve-Learn-Sustain (SLS) course encourages students to learn the story of Atlanta through its food history.

Curating Safe Space: LIVE WORK LEARN PLAY GROW

In partnership with The Pride School Atlanta, this course explores advocacy through the design of space at three scales of architecture (in this case, as the design of building): interior space, the building, and the landscape. Can architects re-imagine the future of educational spaces and social equity by placing attention to the bidirectional relationships of space and behavior within the context of gender equality and human rights? Can advocacy become a mainstream practice, a political voice, for architects?

The Rhetorics and Poetics of Dirt

This course asks students to examine what we talk about when we talk about “dirt,” and how do the things we communicate about dirt change its presence in our lives. The major assignments facilitate learning goals through four units: dirt vs. soil, earthworks, dirt stories, and trendy dirt. The primary texts in this course will largely deal with a North American perspective on dirt. We will engage with American film (ex: Grapes of Wrath, Waterworld, Noma, Interstellar, The Martian, the Mad Max megaverse), and contemporary American literature.

Sociology of Medicine and Health

This course will introduce the sociology of medicine and health (also known as medical sociology or sociology of health and illness), which is a broad field examining the social production of health, wellness, illness and mortality. This sub-discipline of sociology starts from the assumption that we cannot understand the topics of health and illness simply by looking at biological phenomena and medical knowledge.

Urban Heat Islands and the Georgia Tech Climate Network

Extreme heat leads to more deaths in the US than all other natural disasters combined, and as global temperatures rise, so will the dangers. Urban areas, such as Georgia Tech’s campus, are of primary concern because of the urban heat island effect – the phenomenon in which cities are warmer than nearby rural areas.

Georgia Tech needs your help! This tool will teach you more about the urban heat island effect. You’ll identify real-world urban heat islands on the Georgia Tech campus and propose strategies to reduce temperatures at these campus hot spots. We encourage you to send your recommendations to Georgia Tech’s Urban Climate Lab for consideration! 

The 1995 Chicago Heat Wave

Are heat waves simply natural disasters over which we have no control? With heat waves set to increase over the coming decades, how can we fight this invisible killer? In this case study, head back to 1995 Chicago, when one of the deadliest heat waves in US history struck the city, killing hundreds. Learn about the demographics that were particularly vulnerable to the heat wave, and how those vulnerabilities made this heat wave (and others like it) not just a natural disaster, but a social one. After reading this case study and an interview transcript with one of the experts on the 1995 Chicago heat wave, turn to the Discussion Questions to think about how social networks and the built environment can protect us during heat waves now and in the future.

Regenesis Case Study: Chemical Safety & Ethics in Relation to Communities

This tool explores the principle that environmental health impacts are a function of the inherent risk multiplied by exposure. In chemical processes we have become better at managing inherent risk, but we also have a significant legacy of mismanagement. One such example occurred in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where local politician Harold Mitchell and community organization ReGenesis tackled the problem of their community's long-term exposure to hazardous waste.

The tool below uses a video of Rep. Mitchell to explain the events in Spartanburg. It explores how local chemical plants mismanaged and deliberately covered up risks, nearly leading to a chemical disaster that they were not equipped to contain. Through this activity, you will explore and discuss how chemical engineering professionals should respond to similar situations, and what responsibilities such professionals have to the communities around them.