Social Networks And Health In A Resource-Limited Setting

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Our study team and local partners

Logistically, this study aimed to develop a novel network survey method in the resource-limited setting of Uganda, in order to accurately measure several types of social network interactions (known as “multiplexity” in social network parlance) using a photographic database of participants. Scientifically, this study aimed to assess how network structure and composition are associated with several health traits, behaviors and attitudes, as well as with other economic and development outcomes.

A full photographic and geographic census was conducted in one rural parish in Southwest Uganda of all residents of the eight villages within the parish who were 18 years or older. Sociocentric network data representing seven types of networks (leisure, financial, health, emotional, food-sharing, kinship, and gift-giving networks), and other information were then collected from 1,673 adults (an 88% response rate). Preliminary results show that, on average, individuals nominated 4 people in their immediate social network, 3 in the gift network, 2 in the financial and food-sharing networks, and 1 in the health and emotional networks. There was some, but not complete, overlap of nominated individuals across networks types. People who self-reported as HIV-positive nominated 1.4 persons in their emotional support network, on average. Currently, the database is going through a final phase of quality checks and management after which plans are in place to begin cross-sectional analyses. Work from this pilot project is now being used in new efforts to understand aging in resource-limited settings, in collaboration with researchers at Mbarara University of Science and Technology in that country.

Pilot Leader: Jessica Perkins, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Doctoral Program in Health Policy, Harvard University