Healthy Regions + Policies Lab

Measuring Social Determinants of Health


Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) are defined by the World Health Organization as the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age. Measuring, mapping, and distilling SDOH and their impacts and/or interactions with health outcomes is complicated. While variables are associated with health outcomes, they are also likely to be associated with each other, resulting in issues of multicollinearity and presenting challenges for meaningful interpretation. There is also much variability across populations and geographies, a concept known as spatial heterogeneity. In this suite of projects, we use a variety of SDOH models, spatial analytic methods, and clustering techniques to more precisely model and measure SDOH, and dimensions of SDOH, directly.

Applications (2020)

Co-authored with Build Healthy Places Network, “From Outcomes to Impact: An Exploratory Model for Estimating the Health Returns of Comprehensive Community Development” (2019). Report and Neighborhood Health Calculator


Kolak, M., Bhatt, J., Park, Y.H., Padrón, N.A. and Molefe, A., 2020. Quantification of neighborhood-level social determinants of health in the continental United States. JAMA Network Open3(1), pp.e1919928-e1919928.

Kolak, M., Abraham, G. and Talen, M.R., 2019. Mapping Census Tract Clusters of Type 2 Diabetes in a Primary Care Population. Preventing Chronic Disease16.

Tung, E.L., Chua, R.F., Besser, S.A., Lindau, S.T., Kolak, M., Anyanwu, E.C., Liao, J.K. and Tabit, C.E., 2019. Association of Rising Violent Crime With Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Risk: Longitudinal Evidence From Chicago, 2014–2016. American Journal of Hypertension32(12), pp.1192-1198.

Kolak, M., Bradley, M., Block, D.R., Pool, L., Garg, G., Toman, C.K., Boatright, K., Lipiszko, D., Koschinsky, J., Kershaw, K. and Carnethon, M., 2018. Urban foodscape trends: disparities in healthy food access in Chicago, 2007–2014. Health & Place52, pp.231-239.


Funding for SDOH projects come from a variety of sources. Funding for extensions of SDOH measurement concepts are found in the associated Air Quality, COVID, and Risk Environment Project pages at HEROP. 

  • “Spatio-temporal Modeling to Quantify Social Determinants of Cardiovascular Disease.” Seed Grant. Center for Data and Computing, University of Chicago (2019-2020)
  • “Developing a Return on Investment Metric for Community Development and Health Cases.” Build Healthy Places, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2017-2018)   


Center for Health Innovation at the American Hospital Association, Dr. Mary Talen’s team at the Erie Family Health Center, Dr. Corey Tabit’s Research Group at UChicago Medicine, Build Healthy Places Network, Metropolitan Planning Council, Chicago Department of Public Health, the Geisinger Center for Health Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Dr. Moise’s Lab at the University of Miami


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