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Social Capital and Health

Research Findings and Questions on a Modern Public Health Perspective

Ota de Leonardis

This article aims at contributing to the discussion on the features of public health systems consistent with the broader definition of health – broader than the strictly bio-medical one – which is currently accepted in the related literature. The questions it raises are on how social capital influences well-being, and on whether and how it can be recognized and cultivated as a basic resource for health, and integrated into the health systems. In the first part, research literature on the ways health conditions are correlated with both poverty and social capital is briefly discussed. In the second part, several cases on health prevention and rehabilitation programs are analysed in some detail, as they appear to improve the health conditions of a community by investing in its 'social capital'. The main insights are on how to combine social protection with individual agency.

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Social Capital and Civic Engagement in Urban China

Kang Hu and Raymond K. H. Chan

Promoting civic engagement could be a way of strengthening the social solidarity of China's urban population. The drastic socio-economic changes resulting from recent economic reform are likely to have a deleterious effect on social solidarity. Based on a survey conducted in 2010 in the Southern China city of Xiamen, this paper examines a specific form of civic engagement - citizen cooperation - to resolve community problems, and assesses its relationship with social capital. The study reveals that discrepancies in the level of civic engagement exist among urban residents and that inequality of social capital plays a significant role in these discrepancies. The findings suggest that such gaps could be addressed by increasing social capital, especially by expanding residents' personal community networks.

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An Analysis of Social Capital Generation among Coalfield Residents in Harlan County, Kentucky

Feng Hao

The coal industry exercises a pervasive influence upon mining communities in Appalachia even though it makes minimal contributions to employment. Miners rarely participate in movements that fight against coal companies for better working conditions. One explanation for this paradox is the depletion of social capital. In this article, I first use the existing body of literature to build a theoretical framework for discussing bonding social capital. Second, I analyze how the United Mine Workers of America in Harlan County, Kentucky at the beginning of the twentieth century worked to generate social capital. The results show that these coalfield residents demonstrated a high degree of social capital in terms of a strong shared sense of reliability and a dedication to collective activities and intimate networks. The union during that period engaged in strategies that were instrumental in creating this high level of social capital: holding regular meetings, organizing collective actions, promoting collective identity, and electing charismatic leaders.

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Comparatico (godparenthood) as an emblematic form of social capital among Australian families originating from rural Calabria living in Adelaide, South Australia

Simone Marino

This paper examines the spiritual kinship known in Italian as ‘godparenthood’, as it is practised among families originating from specific rural areas of Calabria, southern Italy, who live in Adelaide, South Australia. In the Catholic rite of baptism, the (godparent) is a person who promises to share the responsibility of the child’s education with the parents. For the participants of the present study, however, the relationship among (godparents) is much more than that, perhaps being better translated as ‘family allies’. is a strong relationship that involves not merely the people directly concerned in the religious ceremony, but all members of the two families, leading to the creation of an extended and fictive family, or alliances across multiple families. The paper shows that such inter‐familial cooperation among migrants and their descendants appears to be highly visible among Italians originating from Calabria. Yet it questions why godparenthood ties are even present in a community of Calabrian‐Italian‐Australians. I draw on folklore and network theories particularly, and the Bourdieusian concept of social capital is especially crucial in interpreting the ties of family alliances that exist in the Calabrian diasporic community of Adelaide.

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Social Capital and Community Pharmacy

A Critical Review

Paul Bissell

Although community pharmacists have a well-established and culturally acknowledged role supplying medicines, the reconfiguration of occupational boundaries within healthcare in England and other countries (Charles-Jones et al. 2003) has resulted in increasing policy and professional interest in developing the role of the pharmacist in a number of areas. Whilst many of the new roles for pharmacists involve the sale or supply of medicines by different means (for example, via patient group directions or pharmacist prescribing) and are mainly aimed at improving access to medicines, other suggested developments shift community pharmacy practice into rather more unfamiliar territory. In particular, there is now increasing interest in the role that pharmacists might play in public health, and the term ‘pharmaceutical public health’ is increasingly heard within practice research circles and pharmacy policy more generally, both in the UK and abroad (Boorman et al. 2001; Anderson et al. 2003; Jones et al. 2004). For example, the Department of Health in England has devoted considerable attention to the idea of pharmaceutical public health.

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Franco-Ontarian Women and Multiple Positions of Identity and Belonging

A Study from Northern Ontario, Canada

Jane H. Roberts

While Putnam's communitarian conceptualization of social capital has significantly influenced our understanding of community cohesion, the concept of social capital is highly contested. Questions have been raised about the ways in which agency and power operate in a community's sense of connectedness. Within this critique, little attention has been paid to the conceptualization of cultural identity when framed in dominant constructions of social capital. This paper contends that Bourdieu's critical perspective on social capital is better placed to examine the complex relationships between multiple, conflicting and overlapping positions of cultural identity with a sense of belonging. In addition, a Bourdieurian analysis acknowledges that the dynamic relationships of habitus, capital and field produce multiple identities associated with conflicting notions of connectedness which are contextually contingent. The paper argues that ethnography is best placed to offer a different perspective to de-contextualized data, and supports any examination of identity and belonging as best viewed within the context in which such concepts develop and are situated.

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Women’s Health in Central Asia

The Case of Female Suitcase Traders

Muyassar Turaeva

This article assesses the social factors that influence the health of female suitcase traders and the health risks related to the trade as an occupation. The findings indicate that it is imperative to study the health of small-scale traders within the framework of occupational health. Suitcase trade is widespread in both developing countries and the post-Soviet region, and recognising it as an occupation makes it possible to research related health issues. This in turn can lead to the discovery of specific patterns regarding health risks and the treatment of typical illnesses of suitcase traders, thus facilitating comparison with other occupational health research. The article examines existing barriers to health for women in Central Asia and summarises the quality and content of the treatment that is available.

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Sense of Community

Bo Rothstein, Helena Olofsdotter Stensöta, Isabell Schierenbeck, Jonas Frykman, Kjell Hansen, and Mia-Marie Hammarlin

Community-studies have a long tradition within European Ethnology. Almost without exception they have been neglecting the strong presence of public institutions of the welfare state – despite the fact that various social security and insurance systems are such an important factor in local life. These are the offices people turn to when they are ill, require unemployment benefits, social assistance, and early retirement or disability pensions. They often provide the foundations for people to make a go of things where they live. Local communities on the other hand are not passively receiving support, but in a most intricate practice defining the actual outcome of the workings of the institutions. In this essay remuneration for illness in contemporary Sweden is used as an instrument for putting local culture in a new light. In a joint effort the macro-perspectives of political science is combined with the detailed cultural analysis of ethnology.1 Especially the emotional aspects of community-building are brought out.

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The Inheritance of Activism

Does Social Capital Shape Women's Lives?

Supriya Baily, Gloria Wang, and Elisabeth Scotto-Lavino

curious as to how those experiences might have stayed with them, what impact they might have had on their adult lives, and what connection those experiences might have had with their social capital the further they were removed from their girlhood activism

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“One Hand Washes the Other”

Social Capital and the Politics of Leisure in Guadeloupean Associations

Kathe Managan

Through a close look at events observed in three Guadeloupean voluntary associations—a retirees' club, a youth group, and a dance club—this essay examines the politics of leisure activities, helping to illuminate the ways that social capital operates in associations and how politics permeates everyday life on the French island of Guadeloupe. I consider the ways that Putnam's view of social capital differs from Bourdieu's. I argue associations are an important source of social capital for some marginalized members of Guadeloupean society who convert this social capital into economic, political, or social advancement. At the same time, social capital is unevenly accessible within associations and it operates in a context of political patronage. My data suggests that we need to rethink the concept of social capital to account for the complexity of the ways it works in society.