Research project Despite the fact that public health in Sweden is good compared to many other countries, social inequalities in health - systematic disparities in health between different social groups - continue to exist and are even rising. Children living in socially unfavorable conditions are also more likely to have health problems. Alarmingly, children who start their life in unfavorable conditions are also at high risk of remaining in vulnerable positions and in poor health throughout their lives. The overall aims of this project are to investigate the associations between neighborhood social capital and child health inequality and to explore what constitutes a health-enabling neighborhood for children.
It is now widely accepted that (child) health inequalities can be explained to a large extent by the social determinants of health (SDH), i.e. “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age”. While some health inequalities might be the result of biological differences, others are a result of the various conditions in which children live, and are thus avoidable.Within the field of SDH, ‘social capital’ has become a widely used concept for studying place effects on health, and is viewed as an attractive ‘conceptual tool’ for what constitutes a ‘health-enabling’ living environment. However, Swedish studies about the influence of the living environment on child health are limited. Studies on health inequalities between places are also methodologically challenging, as it has been difficult to distinguish whether geographical inequalities in health are related to the composition of individuals living in these places, or whether it really reflects ‘true’ area (contextual) effects. This project we will take advantage of multilevel analytical methods that enable controlling for factors at both the individual and contextual levels, to detect potential independent health effects of factors in the living environment. Further, the combination of data from several comprehensive child health registers will be used and combined with qualitative data from small-scale case studies where children describe and portray their neighborhoods. The project will result in the formulation of relevant policy recommendations for the planning and design of equal and health-enabling neighborhoods for children.