Health and health behavior depend crucially on social networks. Both the spread of communicable diseases, such as HIV, and the diffusion of beliefs and practices that shape health behavior, such as dietary risk behavior, can be understood as network-generated health processes, operating over (sometimes very complex and dynamic) social networks. This recognition is evidenced by the dramatic growth in social network and health studies in the last 15 years. Despite the clear demand and growing recognition of health importance, network methods are rarely covered in the standard social-science methods sequences characteristics of health and health-policy scholars. Since the methodological scope of network science is so broad, we use a pragmatic approach that draws on the depth of local expertise among triangle universities. We start with a core set of foundational courses that branch out to workshops specifically designed around skills needed for in-hand projects the students are working on. This novel trunk-and-branch training structure will simultaneously create broad understanding and literacy in social network and health research while providing program fellows (triangle-area NIH pre-and post-docs) with the skills and resources needed to move research from inchoate ideas to practical, well-reasoned and generative social networks and health research.

Public Health Relevance

Social networks are a key determinant of health; directly through pathogen diffusion and indirectly through peer influence processes or role behaviors characteristic of a particular network position. While there is growing recognition of the importance of networks for health, training programs for health scholars almost never include social networks methodology training. This project provides student-centered focus on the core ideas of social network analysis relevant for health training; resulting in a cohort of researchers well-prepared to best leverage new network data for promoting health.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Education Projects (R25)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZHD1-DSR-W (50))
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Bures, Regina M
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Duke University
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United States
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