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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 24 Conclusion If Putnam is correct – that social capital in the form of community membership is declining (and the secular trends found in this study tend to support his ideas) – how do we take advantage of the findings from this study? If membership continues to decline, it could be argued that eventually our findings will decrease in significance. Before we reach this conclusion, however, we need more compelling evidence that social capital is in fact decreasing. Although both Putnam’s (1995, 2000) findings and our own in this paper point to a decline in organizational membership, we do not yet know if this signifies a decrease in engagement or a displacement of certain kinds of engagement. It is possible, for example, that membership in more traditional organizations (e.g., the Red Cross, Boy Scouts, etc.) are being displaced by a rise in membership in others. Putnam’s (2000) own data reveal a rise in membership in organizations such as the American Association of Retired People, the Sierra Club, and various support groups. He also notes that between 1968 and 1997, “the number of national organizations per capita has increased by nearly two-thirds” (p. 49). Despite evidence that social capital is changing, Putnam (2002) has uncovered at least some short-term changes in light of the World Trade Center bombing on September 11, 2001. He has found that individuals are reporting more trust in their communities and have re-focused some of their time toward their community (Putnam, 2002). Although the durability of this shift back toward the community is yet to be determined, there is little doubt that enlisting the support of community organizations can expand the reach and effectiveness of health promotion activities. Organizations can be viewed as meta-channels because many of them provide members with information through the use of multiple channels.

Authors: Stephens, Keri., Rimal, Rajiv. and Flora, June.
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Expanding the Reach 24
Conclusion
If Putnam is correct – that social capital in the form of community membership is
declining (and the secular trends found in this study tend to support his ideas) – how do we take
advantage of the findings from this study? If membership continues to decline, it could be
argued that eventually our findings will decrease in significance. Before we reach this
conclusion, however, we need more compelling evidence that social capital is in fact decreasing.
Although both Putnam’s (1995, 2000) findings and our own in this paper point to a decline in
organizational membership, we do not yet know if this signifies a decrease in engagement or a
displacement of certain kinds of engagement. It is possible, for example, that membership in
more traditional organizations (e.g., the Red Cross, Boy Scouts, etc.) are being displaced by a
rise in membership in others. Putnam’s (2000) own data reveal a rise in membership in
organizations such as the American Association of Retired People, the Sierra Club, and various
support groups. He also notes that between 1968 and 1997, “the number of national
organizations per capita has increased by nearly two-thirds” (p. 49).
Despite evidence that social capital is changing, Putnam (2002) has uncovered at least
some short-term changes in light of the World Trade Center bombing on September 11, 2001.
He has found that individuals are reporting more trust in their communities and have re-focused
some of their time toward their community (Putnam, 2002).
Although the durability of this shift back toward the community is yet to be determined,
there is little doubt that enlisting the support of community organizations can expand the reach
and effectiveness of health promotion activities. Organizations can be viewed as meta-channels
because many of them provide members with information through the use of multiple channels.


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