New Horizons in Regional Science series
Edited by Hans Westlund and Kiyoshi Kobayashi
Chapter 12: Collective actors as driving forces for mobilizing social capital in a local community: what can be learned for health promotion?
‘Social capital’ – broadly defined as ‘social networks, the reciprocity that arises from them, and the value of these for achieving mutual goals’ (Schuller et al., 2000, p. 1) – has become an attractive concept for local community development, since it may provide local communities with the connectedness and trust that is needed to face new challenges and solve collective problems (Gittell and Vidal, 1998). Within public health, social capital has renewed interest in the social determinants of health. The concept is critically debated but still appealing as one potential key to explain social inequalities in health. A systematic review of the international literature up to 2006 (Kim et al., 2008) found a fairly consistent association between trust and associational membership (as indicators of social capital) and physical and self-rated health. These results have raised questions about how social capital may function for community health promotion. Harpham et al. (2002, p. 107) state: ‘One of the obvious next steps after examining the association between social capital and health is for intervention studies to examine whether social capital can be increased/ strengthened and, if so, whether this increased social capital leads to better health’.
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