The Social Determinants of Health Core: Taking a Place-Based Approach

Am J Prev Med. 2017 Jan;52(1S1):S13-S19. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2016.09.025.


Introduction: There is growing recognition that health disparities research needs to incorporate social determinants in the local environment into explanatory models. In the transdisciplinary setting of the Mid-South Transdisciplinary Collaborative Center (TCC), the Social Determinants of Health (SDH) Core developed an approach to incorporating SDH across a variety of studies. This place-based approach, which is geographically based, transdisciplinary, and inherently multilevel, is discussed.

Methods: From 2014 through 2016, the SDH Core consulted on a variety of Mid-South TCC research studies with the goal of incorporating social determinants into their research designs. The approach used geospatial methods (e.g., geocoding) to link individual data files with measures of the physical and social environment in the SDH Core database. Once linked, the method permitted various types of analysis (e.g., multilevel analysis) to determine if racial disparities could be explained in terms of social determinants in the local environment.

Results: The SDH Core consulted on five Mid-South TCC research projects. In resulting analyses for all the studies, a significant portion of the variance in one or more outcomes was partially explained by a social determinant from the SDH Core database.

Conclusions: The SDH Core approach to addressing health disparities by linking neighborhood social and physical environment measures to an individual-level data file proved to be a successful approach across Mid-South TCC research projects.

MeSH terms

  • Community-Based Participatory Research / methods*
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Research Design
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Social Determinants of Health*
  • Social Environment*
  • Socioeconomic Factors