Investing social capital  pg. 6

One of the things we’ve been interested in studying is the importance of not only poverty and income inequality as predictors of infectious diseases, but also social capital as well, and looking at how strongly people are tied together in a community.

Do people say that they have friends in the community? Do they share meals together? Do people belong to social organizations together? Are these social factors promoters of—or protective against—infectious disease?

With regard to predictors of STDs and HIV/AIDS and even teen pregnancy, we’re finding that although poverty, income inequality and social capital are all important, actually it is social capital that seems to be the strongest predictor.

We have found that in states where there is higher social capital (higher interconnectedness), there are actually substantially lower STD and AIDS case rates. Teen pregnancy is also much lower when social capital is high. Social capital is protective.

That suggests that maybe if we were able to build stronger neighborhoods, stronger communities, that we might be able to intervene in multiple diseases at one time.

Dr. Pape, have you looked at the element of social capital in Port-au-Prince?

Yes we have. We work with a very poor community, and most of them live in the slums. And what we have seen is that very often a very small amount of (social) capital makes a huge difference in both education and health behavior and diseases.

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