Building social capital with women in a socially disadvantaged community

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Individual and community health outcomes are strengthened by friendships and social support networks. Community interventions aimed at improving the social factors that influence the health of individuals and communities increasingly include strategies to develop resilience through building networks and social capital. The study reported here used a cross-sectional survey design, administered at two time points, to measure the effect of a community capacity-building programme implemented by Women's Health Nurses. Data described and where possible measured women's perceptions of their physical and mental well-being, friendships and support networks, community connectedness and participation, safety, and knowledge of and access to local community services. The follow-up survey also measured the impact of specific community development initiatives. Overall, findings of both surveys were consistent, with some notable exceptions. For example, at follow up there was a significant improvement in mental health indicators and fewer women believed their physical or emotional problems imposed a considerable burden on their daily activities. They also believed people from other cultures were more likely to be accepted by neighbours and reported increased involvement in community activities as a direct result of the Villawood Icebreakers Project.

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