The role of social capital in African-American women's use of mammography

Lorraine Dean, S. V. Subramanian, David R. Williams, Katrina Armstrong, Camille Zubrinsky Charles, Ichiro Kawachi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Black/African-American women are more likely to get breast cancer at a young age and/or be diagnosed at a late disease stage, pointing to a greater need to promote mammography for Black women at earlier ages than are currently recommended. This study explores how perceived neighborhood social capital, that is, perceptions of how tight-knit a neighborhood is and what power that confers to neighborhood members, relates to use of mammography for Black women in Philadelphia. Living in a community with tight social ties (social cohesion) or that have a collective motivation for community change (collective efficacy) may increase the likelihood that an individual woman in that community will hear health messages from other community members and neighbors (diffusion of information) and will have access to health-related resources that allow them to engage in healthy behaviors. No prior studies have explored the role of social capital in decisions for mammography use. Using multilevel logistic regression, we analyzed self-report of mammography in the past year for 2586, Black women over age 40 across 381 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA census tracts. Our study included individual demographic and aggregates of individual-level social capital data from the Public Health Management Corporation's 2004, 2006, and 2008 Community Health Database waves, and 2000 US Census sociodemographic characteristics. Individual perceptions that a Black woman's neighborhood had high social capital, specifically collective efficacy, had a positive and statistically significant association with mammography use (OR=1.40, CI: 1.05, 1.85). Our findings suggest that an individual woman's perception of greater neighborhood social capital may be related to increased mammography use. Although this analysis could not determine the direction of causality, it suggests that social capital may play a role in cancer preventive screening for African-American women in Philadelphia, which warrants further study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-156
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Black/African-American
  • Cancer
  • Community participation
  • Mammography
  • Screening
  • Social capital
  • USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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