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Sociol Health Illn. 2020 Jan;42(1):95-110. doi: 10.1111/1467-9566.12992. Epub 2019 Nov 1.

Toward an institutional perspective on social capital health interventions: lay community health workers as social capital builders.

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Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA.


This article argues that social capital health research should move beyond a mere focus on social cohesion and network perspectives to integrate an institutional approach into the development of social capital health interventions. An institutional perspective, which is unique in its emphasis on linking social capital in addition to the bonding and bridging forms, contextualises social capital, allowing researchers to confront the complexity of social relationships. This perspective allows for the construction of interventions that draw on the resources of diverse actors, particularly the state. One intervention strategy with the potential to create community linkages involves lay community health workers (LCHWs), individuals who are trained to perform a variety of health-related functions but lack a formal professional health education. This article begins with a review of the institutional social capital-building literature. It then goes on to briefly review the social capital and health literature and discuss the state of intervention research. Thereafter, it describes LCHWs and discusses studies that have utilised LCHWs to tackle community health problems. In doing so, this article presents an institutional-based systematic framework for how LCHWs can build social capital, including a discussion of the ways in which LCHWs can successfully promote bonding, bridging and linking social capital.


health interventions; lay community health workers; linking social capital; social capital


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