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Social Capital for Health - a new way to target health inequalities?

Social capital can contribute to reducing health inequalities, but it is only one part of an approach to health improvement that must also include measures to raise the absolute income levels and material living standards of the worst off in society says new book Social Capital for Health: insights from qualitative research

Social Capital for Health, published by the Health Development Agency, draws together a range of studies that attempt to assess the relative importance of the concept as it relates to different age groups, gender and ethnic groups and examines the use of social capital to improve health and reduce health inequalities.

Academics from the Gender Institute, LSE, have contributed to the publication: Dr Virginia Morrow with a chapter on 'Children's Experiences of Community', and Catherine Campbell and Carl McLean on 'Social Capital, Social Exclusion and Health; factors shaping African-Caribbean participation in local community networks'.

Social capital is a concept that recognises that a range of social and community circumstances can influence health-related behaviour, and that an individual's health and well-being can be affected by the way they relate to social networks and communities.

The book reports the views of African-Caribbean residents of a deprived multi-ethnic town in the south of England, providing one of the few examinations of the role of ethnic minority status in shaping the ways that people create, sustain and access social capital.

It also explores how social capital relates to children and young people, by looking at a range of issues including their attitudes to local facilities and social networks. Some of the findings suggest that children and young people should be included when views are sought from communities, as they are often overlooked in this process. This is especially relevant, as this group is frequently perceived as 'the problem' in urban and suburban environments.

On the issue of gender, findings show that men in the community are reluctant to take responsibility for their health, tending to devolve responsibility for health matters to girlfriends, wives and mothers.

These findings are complemented by a chapter examining the relationships between social capital, health and age group and research analysing quantitative surveys that measure social capital and a small study on whether typical social capital survey questions relate to how respondents' view their health.

Social capital can contribute to reducing health inequalities but it is only one part of an approach to health improvement that must also include measures to raise the absolute income levels and material living standards of the worst off in society.

Ends

For more information contact Dr Tonya Gillis, Press Officer, Health Development Agency, on 020 7061 3117 or email: tonya.gillis@hda-online.org.uk|

Copies of the publication can be obtained from the HDA distributor on 0870 121 4194 or hda@twoten.press.net| or a pdf can be downloaded from the HDA website at
www.hda-online.org.uk

Notes for editors:

Social capital for health: Insights from qualitative research is part of the HDA's major programme of research on the use of social capital to improve health and reduce health inequalities. The findings from this conference will support the implementation of the range of existing and emerging Government policies and programmes set up to address the determinants of inequalities at national and local level. These include New Deal for Communities, Neighbourhood Renewal, Healthy Living Centres, Local Strategic Partnerships and the Healthy Communities Collaborative.

The Health Development Agency identifies what works to improve people's health and reduce health inequalities. It gathers evidence and produces advice for professionals, working alongside them to get that evidence into practice.

7 August 2002

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