The importance of addressing social determinants of health at the local level: the case for social capital

Health Soc Care Community. 2011 Sep;19(5):522-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2524.2011.00999.x. Epub 2011 May 19.


Social determinants are gaining momentum in public health practice. Many proposed solutions for tackling social determinants are outside the scope of local public health professionals. This article reviews the literature to find possible moderating variables which may buffer the effects of the social determinants of health at the local level, and allow social determinants to be addressed within the purview of local health departments. The systematic approach employed for this article entailed searches of electronic academic databases (PubMed, EBSCO and Medline) and additional searches using Internet search engines and relevant websites for articles published between 1,975 and May 2010. The search revealed 2,554 articles, and 36 were determined appropriate for inclusion. The purpose of the search was to identify published articles relating to social determinants of health, social capital and effective approaches for addressing both at the level of the local health department. The search was then expanded to include unpublished material, to include the perspectives of local health departments. This process resulted in the inclusion of content from five sources. In this article, the case is made for focusing on social capital interventions to mitigate health problems associated with social determinants. Examples of successful interventions are provided to aid public health professionals in developing locale-specific solutions for addressing social determinants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Health Policy
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / organization & administration*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Public Health*
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Identification*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Statistics as Topic