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.

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.


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.

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.