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Expanding the Reach of Health Campaigns: Can Community Organizations Serve as Viable Channels of Health Information?
Unformatted Document Text:  Expanding the Reach 21 social capital, total membership or level of involvement? Our response is that the answer to this question depends upon the objective of incorporating social capital into our conceptualization. To the extent that organizations are conceptualized as channels through which health messages can be disseminated, consideration should be given, as we have in this paper, to total membership. After all, when the goal of the effort is to enhance exposure, it is the diversity of channels that is more influential than the level of involvement in each channel. The strength of weak ties (Granovetter, 1973) argues, for example, that engagement in a wide range of social networks is more beneficial (from an information acquisition perspective) than the strength of one’s affiliation. Thus we conclude that total membership in community organizations is a valid consideration for heath campaign designers. There are other times when involvement might be a better measure. For example, much of Putnam’s (2000) work tie membership to desirable outcomes in the community. If organizations do not have the people that volunteer their time, then membership means very little. This is a case where involvement is more important than total membership. Findings of this study also suggest that we now have a better demographic profile of who joins community organizations. Although most of our findings parallel Putnam’s (2000), several are worth discussing. Contrary to Putnam’s findings, our data showed that males were members of more organizations than females. It is not possible to tell whether this is because of the nature of organizations we asked about (e.g., labor unions, fraternities, veterans’ groups) or because we asked about total membership, as opposed to total involvement in organizations. This is worthy of further investigation. We are also unable to tell whether our finding that organizational membership was lowest at age 30 reflects a natural progression in individuals’ lives or whether it taps into a particular generational phenomenon reflective of the time that the FCP data were

Authors: Stephens, Keri., Rimal, Rajiv. and Flora, June.
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Expanding the Reach 21
social capital, total membership or level of involvement? Our response is that the answer to this
question depends upon the objective of incorporating social capital into our conceptualization.
To the extent that organizations are conceptualized as channels through which health messages
can be disseminated, consideration should be given, as we have in this paper, to total
membership. After all, when the goal of the effort is to enhance exposure, it is the diversity of
channels that is more influential than the level of involvement in each channel. The strength of
weak ties (Granovetter, 1973) argues, for example, that engagement in a wide range of social
networks is more beneficial (from an information acquisition perspective) than the strength of
one’s affiliation. Thus we conclude that total membership in community organizations is a valid
consideration for heath campaign designers.
There are other times when involvement might be a better measure. For example, much
of Putnam’s (2000) work tie membership to desirable outcomes in the community. If
organizations do not have the people that volunteer their time, then membership means very
little. This is a case where involvement is more important than total membership.
Findings of this study also suggest that we now have a better demographic profile of who
joins community organizations. Although most of our findings parallel Putnam’s (2000), several
are worth discussing. Contrary to Putnam’s findings, our data showed that males were members
of more organizations than females. It is not possible to tell whether this is because of the nature
of organizations we asked about (e.g., labor unions, fraternities, veterans’ groups) or because we
asked about total membership, as opposed to total involvement in organizations. This is worthy
of further investigation. We are also unable to tell whether our finding that organizational
membership was lowest at age 30 reflects a natural progression in individuals’ lives or whether it
taps into a particular generational phenomenon reflective of the time that the FCP data were


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