Social Capital and Trust in Providers

Social Science and Medicine--October 2003
Vol. 57, No. 7
October 2003
Ahern, M. and M. Hendryx
pp. 1195-203

Trust in providers has been in decline in recent decades. This study attempts to identify sources of trust in characteristics of health care systems and the wider community. The design is cross-sectional. Data are from (1) the 1996 Household Survey of the Community Tracking Study, drawn from 24 Metropolitan Statistical Areas; (2) a 1996 multi-city broadcast media marketing database including key social capital indicators; (3) Interstudy; (4) the American Hospital Association; and (5) the American Medical Association. Independent variables include individual socio-demographic variables, HMO enrollment, community-level health sector variables, and social capital. The dependent variable is self-reported trust in physicians. Data are merged from the various sources and analyzed using SUDAAN. Subjects include adults in the Household Survey who responded to the items on trust in physicians (N=17,653). Trust in physicians is independently predicted by community social capital (p<0.001). Trust is also negatively related to HMO enrollment and to many individual characteristics. The effect of HMOs is not uniform across all communities. Social capital plays a role in how health care is perceived by citizens, and how health care is delivered by providers. Efforts to build trust and collaboration in a community may improve trust in physicians, health care quality, access, and preserve local health care control.

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