Social Epidemiology

The social epidemiology research program in the Department of Epidemiology is grounded in fundamental cause and life-course theories, and is focused on empirically documenting associations between "upstream" social determinants and adverse health outcomes.

This program of research lies at the intersection of civil rights and social justice and is focused on:

  • Understanding race/ethnic and gender disparities in health
  • Identifying biologic, behavioral and psychosocial mechanisms of associations between social determinants and health disparities
  • Conducting within-group analyses and examining effect modification to identify high risk groups, as well as protective factors for adverse health outcomes
  • Identifying policy-amenable social determinants of health
  • Designing intervention studies focused on modifiable social, psychosocial, biologic and behavioral risk factors.

The VCU Center on Society and Health is an academic research center that studies the health implications of social factors—such as education, income, neighborhood and community environmental conditions—and public policy. Its mission is to raise awareness about the importance of factors outside of health care that shape health outcomes and to explore ways to improve population health and wellbeing. The values the Center brings to this work include a commitment to equity—opening the doors of opportunity for all members of society—and to partnerships that work across sectors to help stakeholders discover aligned incentives and together achieve meaningful impact.

The Center approaches this work by blending four ingredients for success:

  • User-oriented research: Scientific scholarship directed at delivering actionable and policy-relevant findings and evidence sought by decision-makers
  • Policy outreach: Active efforts to meet with decision-makers in all sectors to gain deep familiarity with the decision-making environment, priorities, and language
  • Stakeholder and community engagement: Engaging with affected populations and other stakeholders with an intimate understanding of priorities, context, key questions, and feasible solutions
  • Strategic communication: An organized effort to identify target audiences and prepare materials and media in a tailored format that is engaging and accessible to the audience

The Center pursues these goals through collaboration with scholars in different disciplines at VCU and other institutions, and by nurturing partnerships with community, government, and private-sector stakeholders.