About the Center on Society and Health

The Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University is an academic research center that studies the health implications of social factors—such as education, income, neighborhood and community environmental conditions, and public policy.  

The Center’s mission is to answer relevant questions that can "move the needle" to improve the health of Americans and present our work in formats and venues that are useful to decision-makers and change agents. The Center pursues these goals through collaboration with scholars in different disciplines at VCU and other institutions and by nurturing partnerships with the community, government, and private-sector stakeholders.  

The Center's work spans all geographic levels, from international comparisons between the U.S. and other countries to in-depth studies of the health of cities, communities, and neighbors. However, in all projects, our primary focus is drawing connections between society and health.  

The Center limits its work to research for policy service and does not engage in advocacy. Its role is to present objective, independent analysis and not to promote policy initiatives. The Center is not a funding entity, nor does it sponsor extramural research by others.  

History, and the VCU Center on Human Needs

The Center on Society and Health was chartered in 2007 by the Board of Visitors at Virginia Commonwealth University as the VCU Center on Human Needs. The Center's original name grew out of its signature project on societal distress -- a term used by the Center to describe living conditions that do not satisfy basic human needs. 

The work of the VCU Center on Human Needs originally focused on documenting the prevalence of societal distress in five domains: food security, housing, education, income, and health. This flagship project was funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  

Over time, the work of the Center turned increasingly to social determinants of health and to raising awareness among policymakers and the public about the health consequences of social factors outside the clinic. In 2013, the Center changed its name to the Center on Society and Health to reflect this shift in mission, but concern about the basic needs faced by all members of society remains the core of its work.