Bisung, E., & Elliott, S. J. (2014). Toward a social capital based framework for understanding the water-health nexus. Social Science & Medicine, 108, 194-200.
In recent years, there has been considerable interest in social capital theory in both research and policy arenas. Social capital has been associated with many aspects of improvements in health, environment and development. This paper assesses the theoretical support for a social capital based analysis of environment and health issues with a focus on the water-health nexus in low and middle income countries. We review conceptualisation of social capital by Pierre Bourdieu in relation to his concepts of “fields” and “habitus” as well as other conceptualisations of social capital by James Coleman and Robert Putnam. We integrate these authors’ ideas with ecosocial analysis of social and geographical patterns of access to safe water, adequate sanitation and hygiene and the resulting health impacts. Further, we develop a conceptual framework for linking social capital and health through the water-health nexus. The framework focuses on the role of social capital in improving water-related knowledge, attitudes and practices as well as facilitating collective action towards improving access to water and sanitation. The proposed framework will facilitate critical engagement with the pathways through which social processes and interactions influence health within the context of access to water, sanitation and hygiene in low and middle income countries.