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Health in Context: An Examination of Social Capital in Southeastern Pennsylvania


Traditionally, health researchers have tried to understand how individual characteristics—such as blood pressure, family disease history, exercise or eating habits—determine a person’s risk for disease. More recently, however, researchers have taken a more integrated approach to health by examining how social structures may impact a person’s health.

During the past decade, health researchers have focused on a relatively new concept known as “social capital.” Simply put, “social capital” is a measure of community connectedness. Health researchers theorize that elements of social capital—measured by things like civic participation, a sense of belonging, trust in neighbors and a belief people look out for each other—may have protective health benefits.

Over the years, social capital has been primarily explored on a national level. In 2002, PHMC became one of only a handful of organizations across the country that began studying the link between social capital and health at a local level. PHMC’s Community Health Data Base Project incorporated questions regarding social capital into its 2002 Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) Household Health Survey. These questions form the basis of this report, which is intended to increase understanding of the issue in the region by examining the relationship between social capital and socioeconomic and demographic characteristics across communities in SEPA as well as between social capital and health status.

Additional copies of the printed report, Health in Context: An Examination of Social Capital in Southeastern Pennsylvania, are available for distribution. Please contact and specify the number of reports you would like to receive.

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