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Social Determinants of Health: What Is Your Role?

Explore the social, environmental and economic factors that affect health and how health professionals can improve health equity.

4,392 enrolled on this course

  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These factors can all have an impact on health. But what exactly are they and how much impact do they have?

Understand and address health inequalities

This free online course will help you to understand health inequalities and how they are socially driven. We will look at how health is affected by wider determinants and how you can make a difference as a health professional to close the health inequality gap.

Through a range of case studies from high to low income countries, you will gain a better understanding of:

  • social determinants of health;
  • why health inequalities exist;
  • and the role of health professionals and systems in reducing health inequality.

Learn with the BMJ and Institute of Health Equity

The course has been developed by BMJ Learning – a provider of high-quality continuing medical education for doctors and other healthcare professionals – and the Institute of Health Equity (IHE) at University College London (UCL).

IHE is a leading authority in the subject of health inequality and led the World Health Organization (WHO) commission on social determinants of health.

Download video: standard or HD

What topics will you cover?

What are health inequalities and the social determinants of health?

Framework from the Commission on the social determinants of health

The role of Health professionals

Understanding the issue, monitoring health inequality and working with individuals and communities.

  • Education and training
  • Building the evidence: monitoring and evaluation
  • The clinical setting: working with individuals and communities

The health system as an employer; partnerships and advocacy

  • Health system roles: as employers, managers and commissioners
  • Working in partnership: within the health sector and beyond
  • Advocating for change: for the patient, community and health system

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe health inequalities and the social determinants of health.
  • Explore the Framework from the Commission on the Social Determinants of Health.
  • Classify potential actions to reduce health inequalities according to their social context.
  • Debate the role of the health care professional in addressing the social determinants of health.
  • Describe case studies of individuals, organisations, and national programmes to reduce health inequalities.
  • Investigate data tools to identify health gaps.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, midwives, dentists, community health workers, health administrators, allied health professionals and carers.

Who will you learn with?

Has led research groups on health inequalities for over 35 years including chairing WHO's Closing the Gap in a Generation and Fair Society Healthy Lives.

Recently authored The Health Gap.

Jessica Allen is the Deputy Director at the UCL Institute of Health Equity. She works with many countries and international organisations to embed approaches to reduce health inequalities

31 years at the BMA, heading ethics and public health. Authored BMA report on Social determinants. Currently work for Michael Marmot at IHE. Principal Advisor on Public Health ,World Medical Assoctn

Who developed the course?


BMJ advances healthcare worldwide by sharing knowledge and expertise to improve experiences, outcomes and value.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

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