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Social Disparities and Health

A pressing policy problem in the United States and other countries is the extraordinary pattern of inequality in the health of children and adults. These health disparities are widespread and not easily explained. Faculty in IPR’s Cells to Society (C2S): The Center on Social Disparities and Health are forging new paths to create better understanding of, and improvement in, human health and social outcomes. They recognize that such an effort requires complex modeling of the interplay between biological processes and environmental influences. To this end, they coalesce around the Center’s mission to:

  • bring together the social, life, and biomedical sciences to understand the origins, consequences, and policy solutions for contemporary health inequalities in the United States; and 
  • examine how broad social, race/ethnic, and economic disparities "get under the skin" and affect human development and physical health.

A Message from Thomas McDade, Program Chair and C2S Director

Thomas McDade headshot
The Center on Social Disparities and Health continues to expand its scope of activities to understand how social, economic, and cultural contexts affect physical and mental health, as well as cognitive achievement, at the population level. Faculty research overlaps with other IPR program areas including Child, Adolescent, and Family Studies; Policy, Race, and Inequality; and Education Policy.

Working Papers

Recently published articles and working papers in this program area include:

Diane Alexander and Molly Schnell. 2019. The Impacts of Physician Payments on Patient Access, Use, and Health (WP-19-23).

Diane Alexander and Hannes Schwandt. 2019. The Impact of Car Pollution on Infant and Child Health: Evidence from Emissions Cheating (WP-19-17).

Todd Elder, David Figlio, Scott Imberman, and Claudia Persico. 2019. The Role of Neonatal Health in the Incidence of Childhood Disability (WP-19-14).

All Papers

Faculty Experts

Faculty come from the fields of anthropology, sociology, psychology, biomedical sciences, pediatrics, and preventive medicine, in addition to other social science and medical fields.

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New Research Furthers Understanding About What Shapes Human Gut Microbiome

A new Northwestern University study finds that despite human’s close genetic relationship to apes, the human gut microbiome is more similar to that of Old World monkeys like baboons than to that of apes like chimpanzees.


There are no upcoming events at this time.

Policy Brief: The Impact of Violent Crime on Sleep and Stress

Researchers, including IPR psychobiologist Emma Adam, studied sleep and the stress hormone cortisol in adolescents exposed to violent crimes in their communities. They found that adolescents’ sleep and cortisol patterns were disrupted the night and day following nearby violence, and that more violent crimes led to more serious disruptions. Disruption of both sleep and cortisol have been linked to poorer academic performance.

Download the brief