Social Determinants of Health and Health Disparities: What Every Researcher Needs to Know

EPI 222 Winter 2022 (1 or 2 units)
Course Director: Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, MAS
Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics
Co-Course Director: Christine Dehlendorf, MD, MAS
Department of Family and Community Medicine
Co-Course Director: Safyer Mckenzie-Sampson, MSc
Graduate Student Researcher
Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics


Clinical and translational research requires consideration of the diverse influences and contexts affecting and constraining people’s behaviors and health-related outcomes. To conduct high-quality research in diverse populations, researchers should grasp concepts such as race/ethnicity, structural and interpersonal racism, and socioeconomic status, including how these factors affect the development of research questions, data collection and analysis, and dissemination of research findings. Understanding these concepts and proactively incorporating a socioecological perspective into clinical and translational research is essential for both those doing research focused on health equity and for any researcher working with and interested in how their work will impact diverse populations. This course provides a conceptual and practical overview of these topics, with a focus on the needs of researchers working within the United States.

Through taking the 5-week, 1-unit course, researchers will learn about the socioecological model of health and how to incorporate this framework into their research, thereby deepening their ability to perform high-quality research with relevance to diverse populations. Researchers enrolled in the 10-week, 2-unit course will cover more advanced material related to the conduct of health disparities research for those specifically interested in understanding the causes of and solutions to inequalities in health by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

At the end of the 1-unit course, scholars will be able to:

  • Identify the meaning and measurement of race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status and other core concepts;
  • Understand a multi-level and longitudinal framework for influences on health in diverse populations; and
  • Describe the essential role of community engagement when conducting research with diverse populations.

In addition, scholars enrolled in the 2-unit course will be able to:

  • Understand the application and relevance of different study designs to health disparities research;
  • Incorporate a rigorous approach to measurement in research in diverse populations;
  • Apply analytic methods to the study of health disparities; and
  • Recognize current debates and areas of uncertainty, as well as priority areas of research, in health disparities research.

View the Course Introduction video for a further description of course objectives and logistics.


Designing Clinical Research (EPI 202). Exceptions to this prerequisite may be made with the consent of the Course Director, space permitting.

Course Directors:

Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, MAS
Phone: 415-514-8159


Christine Dehlendorf, MD, MAS
Phone: 415-206-8712


Safyer Mckenzie-Sampson, MSc


Maria Glymour, ScD, MS


Irene Yen, PhD, MPH

Teaching Assistant:

Kacey Berry

Michael Sadighian

Mazie Tsang, MD


Course content will be delivered through weekly interactive lectures. These will take place on Tuesdays from 8:45 AM to 10:15 AM, Jan. 4 to Feb. 1 for the 1-unit course and Jan. 4 to Mar. 15 for the 2-unit course. An optional online discussion section will be held on Monday, 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

The daily schedule of activities will be posted on the course's online syllabus.


All materials will be available on the course's online syllabus.


Grades will be based on homework assignments.

Students not in full-year TICR Programs who satisfactorily pass all course requirements will receive, upon request, a Certificate of Course Completion.

UCSF Graduate Division Policy on Disabilities


This course is sponsored by the Training in Clinical Research (TICR) Program, and space is limited. Preference is given to UCSF-affiliated personnel. We regret that auditing in the classroom is not permitted, but most of the course materials (with the exception of videotapes, answer keys, examinations, and copyrighted documents) are freely available (without formal enrollment) on the course’s online syllabus. Many students can glean the majority of the course’s content from this free access, but, importantly, formal enrollment also provides access to faculty for questions and individual-level extension of the curriculum, a community of other engaged students for in-person real-time discussion, and personalized correction and feedback on homework and projects.

To enroll in this course, please fill out and submit the application below. Please see our fees page for cost information. The deadline for application is December 20, 2021. Only one application needs to be completed for all courses desired during the quarter.

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