Application of two schools of social theory to neighbourhood, place and health research

Irene H. Yen, Janet K. Shim, Airín D. Martínez

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


There is an increasing interest in neighbourhoods in the public health and epidemiology literature. Conventional epidemiologic investigations of neighbourhood health associations have primarily used census and administrative data to describe neighbourhoods. These studies report that people who live in neighbourhoods with higher proportions of people with low incomes or who are unemployed are in poorer health than people who live in neighbourhoods with lower proportions of people with low incomes. It is difficult to translate these sorts of findings into policy or practice. These limitations motivate us to ask how different questions might be formulated to understand neighbourhood-health connections in such a way as to move into solution-focused research. In this chapter, we suggest that understanding and applying social theory to neighbourhood-health research questions provokes us to ask different sorts of questions than have been posed by most epidemiologists thus far. We provide some examples of how two sociological paradigms, conflict and interactionist theories, suggest different questions, which then warrant different methods of investigation. To the extent that epidemiology has uncovered mechanisms that connect neighbourhoods to people's health, the most investigated mechanisms are social capital and physical disorder. We take up the specific research in this area with the lens of sociological paradigms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRethinking Social Epidemiology
Subtitle of host publicationTowards a Science of Change
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9789400721388
ISBN (Print)9400721374, 9789400721371
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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