Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Social determinants of health: Making the most of the American community survey


School of Public, Nonprofit & Health Administration


College of Community and Public Service

Date Range





Health is impacted by individual behavior, which in turn is associated with socioeconomic status (i.e. income, poverty, education, marital status). Such variables are critically important for evaluating the health among various subgroups of the population. The decennial US Census and the American Community Survey (ACS) are potentially powerful tools in identifying populations with health disparities and the locations in which they reside due to data availability for small geographic areas. Although data are publicly available, many novice users find harnessing the power of ACS data challenging. With the addition of the margin of error (MOE) provided by the US Census Bureau for each ACS variable, the ability to make relatively quick, simple and appropriate comparisons is now possible. With the addition of the MOE, attendees will see how simple statistical tools developed in any spreadsheet program can be employed in the classroom to demystify the data analysis process. This session will demonstrate a number of standard, accessible, and well-understood analytic approaches using publicly available data via the ACS to identify social determinants of health that often predict where health disparities are most likely to occur. In addition attendees will learn the differences between various Census geography, the tradeoffs between 1, 3 and 5 year ACS datasets, selecting appropriate variables related to the social determinants of health, establishing baseline and trend measures and learning how develop spreadsheet tools to help students create visually appealing and appropriate results. Learning Areas: Other professions or practice related to public health Public health or related research Social and behavioral sciences Learning Objectives: Demonstrate how the American Community Survey can be used to teach statistical applications while identifying potential health disparities. Explain how to perform several statistical methods using American Community Survey data. Keywords: Public Health Education, Statistics

Conference Name

American Public Health Association Annual Conference

Conference Location

Boston, MA

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