Medical Student Elective

Social Determinants of Health Elective


The World Health Organization defines the social determinants of health (SDOH) as the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. The Canadian Medical Association determined that there are 13 SDOH that affect Canada:

  1. Income
  2. Early Childhood Development
  3. Disability
  4. Education
  5. Social exclusion
  6. Social Safety Net
  7. Gender
  8. Employment/Working Conditions
  9. Race
  10. Aboriginal Status
  11. Safe and Nutritious Food
  12. Housing/Homelessness
  13. Community Belonging

Learning Objectives

By the end of this elective, students should:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of the SDOH in interactions with patients and how these SDOH play a critical role in a patient’s health, health outcomes, and health seeking behaviours.
  2. Understand the role of the physicians, other health care providers, and health care services in the accessibility of providing healthcare to patients
  3. Understand the intersection that takes place among the social determinants

Elective Structure

This elective is an opportunity for students to explore many different learning environments in order to become exposed to the various ways in which social determinants can affect their patient’s health. It can be completed as either a series of horizontal electives, or as a block elective. Students will be under the direction of a supervising physician throughout this elective. Students will be expected to contact the physician well in advance to the start of the elective, to arrange their schedule and discuss personal learning objectives. The student will complete placements at various community organizations, to explore the SDOH. Placements can be tailored to fit the student’s interests, and the number of placements completed will be determined with supervising physician. It is recommended that students complete multiple placements with a particular site, in order to fully experience all that it has to offer. Evaluation of this elective will be through a personal narrative that you will hand in at the end of the elective. This personal narrative can take place in the form of video, journal, editorial on an issue, reflection on how you might change your practice, etc.

Contact Christa Jonathan for more information about this elective at