Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Social capital, participation and the perpetuation of health inequalities: obstacles to African-Caribbean participation in 'partnerships' to improve mental health

By Cathy Campbell, F. Cornish and C. Mclean


Objectives: There has recently been much emphasis on the role of 'partnerships' between local community 'stakeholders' in strategies to redress health inequalities. This paper examines obstacles to participation in such partnerships by African-Caribbean lay people in local initiatives to improve mental health in a town in southern England. We present a 'social psychology of participation' which we use to interpret our data. Our work seeks to illustrate some of the micro-social mechanisms through which social inequalities are perpetuated, using Bourdieu's conceptualisation of the role played by various forms of capital (economic, social, cultural and symbolic) in perpetuating social inequalities. Design: Our empirical research consists of a qualitative case study of attitudes to participation in mental health-related partnerships in a deprived community. In-depth interviews and focus groups were conducted with 30 local community 'stakeholders', drawn from the statutory, voluntary, user and lay sectors. Results: While interviewees expressed enthusiasm about the principles of participation, severe obstacles to its effective implementation were evident. These included severe distrust between statutory and community sectors, and reported disillusionment and disempowerment within the African-Caribbean community, as well as low levels of community capacity. Moreover, divergent understandings of the meaning of 'partnership' suggested that it would be difficult to satisfy both community and statutory sectors at once. Conclusions: We suggest that disadvantaged and socially excluded communities are often deprived of the social resources which would provide a solid basis for their participation in partnerships with state health services. In the absence of efforts to remove such obstacles, and to generate the necessary resources for participation, partnerships may be 'set up to fail', leaving social inequalities to prevail

Topics: HM Sociology
Year: 2004
DOI identifier: 10.1080/1355785042000250120
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
Download PDF:
Sorry, we are unable to provide the full text but you may find it at the following location(s):
  • (external link)
  • (external link)
  • (external link)
  • Suggested articles


    1. (2002). Access to mental health services and health sector social capital. Administration and Policy in Mental Health, doi
    2. (1995). Black people and secure psychiatric facilities.
    3. (2000). Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. doi
    4. (2000). Constructing a research corpus. In
    5. (1971). Eight rungs on the ladder of participation',
    6. (2000). Epidemiology of participation: an Australian community study.
    7. (1996). Ethnic differences in risk of compulsory psychiatric admission among representative cases of psychosis in London. doi
    8. (1997). Ethnic differences in satisfaction with mental health services among representative people with psychosis in South London: PRiSM Study 4. doi
    9. (2002). Ethnic identity, social capital and health inequalities: Factors shaping African-Caribbean participation in local community networks. doi
    10. (1986). Ethnic minorities and the Mental Health Act: patterns of explanation. doi
    11. (1997). Ethnicity and Mental Health: Findings from a National Community. London: Policy Studies Institute.
    12. (1997). Ethnicity, equity and the best use of health services in the British NHS. doi
    13. (1998). Genetic, cultural or socioeconomic vulnerability? Explaining ethnic inequalities in health.
    14. Health (1999a) Reducing Health Inequalities: An Action Report. London: Department of Health.
    15. (1999). Health, hierarchy and social anxiety. doi
    16. (1999). Home is where the governing is: social capital and regional health governance. doi
    17. (2000). Investigating the Role of Social Capital and Social Support on Ethnic Inequalities in Health and Smoking. London: Health Development Agency.
    18. (1996). Is AIDS a disease of poverty? doi
    19. (1998). Mental health: access to care for black and ethnic minority people',
    20. (2000). Minority Ethnic Issues in Social Exclusion and Neighbourhood Renewal. London: Cabinet Office.
    21. (2004). Negative pathways to psychiatric care and ethnicity: the bridge between social science and psychiatry. doi
    22. (1988). Notes towards a description of social representations. doi
    23. (1998). Patient satisfaction: ethnic origin or explanatory model? doi
    24. (1998). Perceived ethnicity and risk of compulsory admission. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, doi
    25. (1997). Peripheral communities and the transformation of social representations: queries on power and recognition.
    26. (1984). Personality and Ideology: Towards a Materialist Understanding of the Individual. doi
    27. (1990). Police admissions to a psychiatric hospital: demographic and clinical differences between ethnic groups. doi
    28. (1997). Racial differences in physical and mental health. doi
    29. (1999). Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation, doi
    30. (2002). So, you’re from Brixton?” The struggle for recognition and esteem in a stigmatised community. doi
    31. (1999). Social capital and development: practitioner emptor. doi
    32. (2000). Social capital and health: contextualising health promotion within local community networks', in
    33. (1999). Social Capital and Health. London: Health Education Authority.
    34. (2001). Social capital, disorganised communities and the third way: understanding the retreat from structural inequalities in epidemiology and public health. doi
    35. (2000). Social capital: a review and critique',
    36. (1998). Social capital: its origin and applications in modern sociology. doi
    37. (1999). Social representations of health and illness: the case of the Chinese community in England. doi
    38. (1995). The essential elements of culturally sensitive psychiatric services. doi
    39. (1986). The forms of capital', doi
    40. (1999). The social environment and health: a discussion of the epidemiologic literature. doi
    41. (1999). The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: A Report of an Inquiry by Sir William MacPherson of Cluny. London: Stationery Office. Obstacles to AC participation in partnerships

    To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.