Integration of Social Epidemiology and Community-Engaged Interventions to Improve Health Equity

Reducing health disparities is central to the work of both social epidemiology and community-engaged interventions, but practitioners in both fields have had little success working together to reduce health inequalities. The authors recommend promoting transdisciplinary training and practices.

The authors argue that collaboration between social epidemiologists and community interventionists would be more successful at reducing health disparities than either working alone. Unlike other kinds of epidemiologists, social epidemiologists do not have clinical partners and must therefore partner with community interventionists to effectively translate their research into actionable policy. Partnering with social epidemiologists will benefit interventionists as well, because it will improve the creation and evaluation of their interventions. Collaboration has been hampered, however, by each field’s different standards of evidence, different training and different ways of using evidence to inform practice.

To develop effective transdisciplinary practices, the authors recommend graduate-level cross-training, with field classes taught from each perspective, to help both kinds of practitioners better understand each others’ methods. Such development will require support structures such as fellowships, research grants and multi-institutional calls for disparities research.