This article is a review of the PhD Thesis of Malin Eriksson, entitled 'Social capital, health and community action - implications for health promotion.' The article presents a theoretical overview of social capital and its relation to health, reviews empirical findings of the links between social capital and (self-rated) health, and discusses the usefulness of social capital in health promotion interventions at individual and community levels. Social capital, conceptualized as an individual characteristic, can contribute to the field of health promotion by adding new knowledge on how social network interventions may best be designed to meet the needs of the target group. The distinction of different forms of social capital, i.e. bonding, bridging, and linking, can be useful in mapping the kinds of networks that are available and health-enhancing (or damaging) and for whom. Further, social capital can advance social network interventions by acknowledging the risk for unequal distribution of investments and returns from social network involvement. Social capital, conceptualized as characterizing whole communities, provides a useful framework for what constitutes health-supporting environments and guidance on how to achieve them. Mapping and mobilization of social capital in local communities may be one way of achieving community action for health promotion. Social capital is context-bound by necessity. Thus, from a global perspective, it cannot be used as a 'cookbook' on how to achieve supportive environments and community action smoothly. However, social capital can provide new ideas on the processes that influence human interactions, cooperation, and community action for health promotion in various contexts.
Keywords: community action; health promotion; self-rated health; social capital; social network interventions; supportive environments.
© 2011 Malin Eriksson.