Understanding Health Outcomes: Beyond the Social Determinants of Health


The importance of upstream factors in determining population health is a pillar of social epidemiology, and there is little doubt that social constructs such as race, gender, and class affect health outcomes (Berkman & Kawachi 2000; Krieger 2001; Honjo 2004). Additionally, there is a growing recognition that these social determinants of health do not tell the entire story, and that factors even further upstream may equally important. Politics, for instance, is increasingly seen as a neglected topic in the study of population health (Mackenbach 2014; Navarro & Muntaner 2004). Indeed, partisanship, politics, the environment, urban planning, corporate influence, public opinion, and public discourse may affect population health in various different ways.


In order to explore these further-upstream factors, the Institute for Health and Social Policy (IHSP) and the University of Glasgow’s MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit will co-host a workshop entitled “Understanding Health Outcomes: Beyond the Social Determinants of Health” at McGill University on September 14th-15th, 2017. This workshop will focus on the determinants of health that are one or two-steps removed from those commonly explored in the social epidemiology literature. For example:

·      To what degree should policies in non-health areas be formulated with a view to their effects on health?

·      How does the greater causal uncertainty related to interventions based on upstream determinants factor into decision-making?

·      How can making changes to the built environment contribute to both health and other outcomes?

·      What is the relationship between partisanship and public health? What is the health impact of increased polarization?

·      How can lessons learned from specific policy advocacy be applied across different policy areas?

·      How might changing understandings of the trustworthiness of news media impact health and health policy outcomes?


The hope is for a multidisciplinary and diverse discussion, and we encourage abstracts from both the social and medical sciences. Accepted papers will have the opportunity to be published in a special journal issue on the theme. 


Space is extremely limited.  If you are interested in participating, please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words to mark.daku [at] tcu.edu by August 15, 2017.