Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Center for Primary Care Innovation

National Collaborative for Education to Address the Social Determinants of Health


The Center for Primary Care Innovation is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the Academic Units for Primary Care Training and Enhancement (AU-PCTE). The purpose of the AU-PCTE is to strengthen the primary care workforce through improved clinical teaching and research. HRSA's mission is to improve and achieve health equity through access to quality services, a skilled health workforce and innovative programs.

The National Collaborative for Education to Address the Social Determinants of Health (NCEAS) is a community of practice for people who are interested in training the health workforce about the social determinants of health. By bringing educators together to share best practices and ideas, gain new skills and learn from each other, the NCEAS seeks to stimulate and support enhanced teaching and learning about social determinants of health. In addition to our community of practice, our team of faculty, staff and students is conducting research to enhance training on the social determinants of health and its impact on learners and patient populations.

In the following video, Stephen Persell, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Primary Care Innovation, discusses the goals of the collaborative.

Watch the Video


Social, cultural and economic factors exert powerful influences on health outcomes and produce large disparities in health between groups along socioeconomic, racial, ethnic and cultural lines. The drivers of these disparities include differences in:

  • Environmental exposures
  • Education and literacy 
  • Income wealth, and social status
  • Personal health behaviors (e.g., exercise, diet, smoking, substance use)
  • Social networks and social supports
  • Social stressors (e.g., discrimination)
  • Access to/treatment by clinicians and healthcare systems

Changes in the social determinants of health likely lead to changes in population health that are as great or greater than those brought about by major medical advances.

Training in longitudinal primary care settings may be the optimal way to teach about the social determinants of health, especially situating training in diverse community settings. While some programs have published their content and structure, none has been rigorously studied to demonstrate its effectiveness. Because such immersive education is more resource intensive than simple didactic instruction, demonstrating its comparative efficacy is necessary.

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine's Educational-Centered Medical Home is a novel, comprehensive educational program that exposes students to team-based medicine in an authentic outpatient environment and empowers students to take charge of patients longitudinally over their medical careers. Read more about how we are studying the impact of this model.

By 2030, the United States will have a shortage of 7,300 to 43,100 primary care doctors, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. U.S. and international studies show that increased access to and availability of primary care is associated with less morbidity and mortality, lower costs of care, higher quality of care and fewer disparities across the population. The exposure that medical students and other trainees receive early in their careers may have an important effect on their subsequent chosen field of practice and whether they practice in underserved communities.

Our Projects

Learn more about our current projects via the links below.

Fellow AU-PCTE Grant Awardees

The AU-PCTE is a cooperative agreement between HRSA and selected units, each focusing on a specific aspect of education in primary care. Northwestern, with its focus on the social determinants of health, is one of six academic units, the other five, include: 

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