Health Systems and Policy Research

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Shaping Social Networks to Reduce Health Disparities: The Nexus between Information Dissemination and Valid Discussion

Starlard-Davenport A, Booth B, Kieber-Emmons A, Topologlu U, Hogan W and Thomas Kieber-Emmons

Social networks composed of individuals and communities should be considered an essential partner to healthcare, providing a policy framework for health promotion. As health is influenced by a complex interplay of physical, social, economic, cultural and environmental factors, it must be seen in a broader context, with all stakeholders involved. A people-centered approach to health care requires a holistic strategy for the development and delivery of health and social care. An important component of holistic strategies is understanding how personal connections of social ties, activities and places of people that share information are structured and evolve in a local community. Social networks, and change in networks, can influence health and well-being. Social ties provide emotional, informational, and instrumental and appraisal social support, contributing mechanisms lending to individual and community well-being. Social networks can influence the transmission of health information among communities but dissemination does not always foster discussion among individuals. The purpose of this review is to highlight tools and concepts that shape social networks that can foster discussion, that in turn contribute to better community health outcomes and better engagement of communities in developing health policies.