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How are individual-level social capital and poverty associated with health equity? A study from two Chinese cities

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Author(s): Sun Xiaojie | Rehnberg Clas | Meng Qingyue

Journal: International Journal for Equity in Health
ISSN 1475-9276

Volume: 8;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 2;
Date: 2009;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Abstract Background A growing body of literature has demonstrated that higher social capital is associated with improved health conditions. However, some research indicated that the association between social capital and health was substantially attenuated after adjustment for material deprivation. Studies exploring the association between poverty, social capital and health still have some serious limitations. In China, health equity studies focusing on urban poor are scarce. The purpose of this study is therefore to examine how poverty and individual-level social capital in urban China are associated with health equity. Methods Our study is based on a household study sample consisting of 1605 participants in two Chinese cities. For all participants, data on personal characteristics, health status, health care utilisation and social capital were collected. Factor analysis was performed to extract social capital factors. Dichotomised social capital factors were used for logistic regression models. A synergy index (if it is above 1, we can know the existence of the co-operative effect) was computed to examine the interaction effect between lack of social capital and poverty. Results Results indicated the poor had an obviously higher probability of belonging to the low individual-level social capital group in all the five dimensions, with the adjusted odds ratios ranging from 1.42 to 2.12. When the other variables were controlled for in the total sample, neighbourhood cohesion (NC), and reciprocity and social support (RSS) were statistically associated with poor self-rated health (NC: OR = 1.40; RSS: OR = 1.34). However, for the non-poor sub-sample, no social capital variable was a statistically significant predictor. The synergy index between low individual-level NC and poverty, and between low individual-level RSS and poverty were 1.22 and 1.28, respectively, indicating an aggravating effect between them. Conclusion In this study, we have shown that the interaction effect between poverty and lack of social capital (NC and RSS) was a good predictor of poor SRH in urban China. Improving NC and RSS may be helpful in reducing health inequity; however, poverty reduction is more important and therefore should be implemented at the same time. Policies that attempt to improve health equity via social capital, but neglect poverty intervention, would be counter-productive.
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