Applying Social Networks Approaches to Overcome (Health) Inequalities

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Joyce Koeman presented at the Department of Communication Colloquium Series at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

Drawing on her former work on ethnic marketing strategies in Belgium (or a lack thereof) and the cultural variances in advertising beliefs and attitudes among ethnic minorities, Joyce Koeman explored the opportunities and pitfalls of adopting a social network approach as a viable way of coping with health issues. She pointed out the added value of taking a closer look on the social inequalities that are faced by a fair amount of culturally diverse families, to come to a better understanding of particular lifestyles, health beliefs and choices on the one hand and the potential outcomes of prevention and promotion campaigns on the other. She encouraged communication scholars to engage in larger interdisciplinary research collaborations to address inequalities, in particular in social capital and health, where disadvantaged groups could benefit the most from peer support initiatives as well as more tailored communication strategies. Taking the socio-geographic differences and media landscapes into account, she noted that Flemish communication practitioners and scholars can only build on the rich experiences available in the US in order to develop more effective communications strategies and relevant research agendas. She concluded that applying international knowledge to the most pressing inequalities in Belgian society (e.g., in health, education, economic participation) will be a challenging task for the new generation of social and communication scientists, but one she is willing to take-up in close collaboration and dialogue with local communities and organizations.

 

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