Journal Article

‘Opportunity structures’: urban landscape, social capital and health promotion in Australia

Fran Baum and Catherine Palmer

in Health Promotion International

Volume 17, issue 4, pages 351-361
Published in print December 2002 | ISSN: 0957-4824
Published online December 2002 | e-ISSN: 1460-2245 | DOI:
‘Opportunity structures’: urban landscape, social capital and health promotion in Australia

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This paper presents data from 40 in-depth interviews that were conducted as part of a study of social capital and health in relation to people’s perceptions of the influence of ‘place’ on their participation levels and health. These data were used to examine features of the western suburbs of Adelaide that were perceived as health damaging and health promoting. The paper demonstrates that our Australian suburban respondents expressed a considerable concern about these features and the impact they have on their perception of community and their ability to participate in it. Safety, connectedness to the area, the reputation of an area and the extent and nature of community facilities are all seen as important to a healthy community. The research found that in the more deprived socioeconomic areas within the study area, there was a significant degree of dissatisfaction with features of the urban environment, such as availability of amenities, provision of public transport, and proximity of industry to private dwellings. The paper concludes by considering certain features of urban environments that might make them more supportive of health through encouraging contact between people. We conclude that these environments could be improved using the following measures: a subsidy scheme to support the viability of local shops and cafés (thereby providing meeting places and employment); parks with facilitators (who could play a role in increasing safety in the park but also encouraging community development); attractive places to walk; and a general environmental improvement program.

Keywords: health promotion; location; social capital; urban environments

Journal Article.  7316 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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