Approaches to teaching social determinants of health to undergraduate health care students

Elizabeth A. Brown, Brandi M. White, Aramis Gregory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: There is an increasing call for health care professionals to understand social determinants of health (SDOH); however, there is little consensus on what to teach, how to teach SDOH, or how to assess the material and assignments. This study involved restructuring weekly topics and assignments based on a SDOH framework and literature review to effectively teach allied health care students in an online SDOH undergraduate course about SDOH and their impact on health and well-being. Authors also implemented pre- and post-surveys to assess how students view various SDOH. METHODS: In fall 2019, undergraduate allied health students completed a pre-survey before their first SDOH class and in the last 2 weeks of class completed a post-survey to assess how they view SDOH over time. Based on a literature review, new assignments were added to the course: Modified Privilege Walk, photography essay, case study, and a service-learning project. Pre- and post-survey mean scores were compared using a Wilcoxon signed-rank test. RESULTS: Data from 18 matched pre-and post-surveys were analyzed. Many students were non-Hispanic White and female. Students rated the overall SDOH course and service-learning experience as very effective in teaching SDOH; however, students rated the case study slightly lower. Course feedback illustrated strengths and areas for improvement in the course, including adding more volunteer hours and depicting more actual patient stories demonstrating SDOH and the impact on health and well-being. CONCLUSIONS: A combination of various assignments, including photo essays, service-learning projects, and critical reflection writing, from medicine and nursing SDOH curricula are feasible to implement in an online program that teaches primarily allied health professional students. Teaching SDOH for a semester (versus one class setting), linking SDOH to the “real world,” and creating awareness about SDOH and privilege may lead to more empathetic health care providers who can better understand and advocate for their patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31E-36E
JournalJournal of Allied Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Assoc. of Schools Advancing Health Professions, Wash., DC.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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