Social capital, social contagion, healthy minds and healthy habits in the future health care work force in the occupied Palestinian territory

Ranin Darkhawaja, University of Basel

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and depression form an unhealthy mix causing major disability. The problem may be aggravated in Palestine where the political situation contributes to mental stress. Several committees call for integrating mental health into NCD care, a recommendation poorly translated in clinical practice. Primary prevention is a cost-effective, but challenging aspect of integrated NCD/depression control. Targeting the major risk factors, i.e. diet, physical activity, overweight, smoking and alcohol, is at the center of NCD prevention, yet depression can be a barrier in achieving healthy habits. It is therefore important to identify modifiable factors that influence both, lifestyle and depression. The current project focuses on social capital (SC), i.e. resources accessible through social connection, as a potentially effective approach to shape healthy minds and habits. It studies the role of SC domains on depression and health habits in health domain students from An-Najah National University. The health behavior of these future health professionals as well as their beliefs and attitudes regarding both, a healthy lifestyle and mental problems, shapes the care they will provide in Palestine. Students will be asked to fill in a baseline and 1-year follow-up questionnaire on depression, lifestyle, social capital and relevant covariates. Personal identifiers will allow linking depression and behavior in the student network and studying their social contagion. The results of this study hold promise for cost-effective NCD prevention.

Keywords: health-related habits, mental health, psychosocial factors, social capital, sense of coherence, self-efficacy, social contagion, university students, permutation tests, generalized estimating equations // mental health, physical activity, elderly, children, quality of life.

Short Biography

Ranin Darkhawaja is first year PhD student at Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute. She will be studying epidemiology with focus on biostatistics. Her thesis will focus on social capital as potentially effective approach to shape healthy minds and habits. She received her Master Degree in Public Health from Birzeit University, Palestine. She worked as research assistant at the Palestinian National Institute of Public Health/Palestine. Prior to this, she worked as fundraising and proposal writing officer at Health Work Committees/Palestine. Additionally, she worked as instructor at Al-Quds Open University.

Ranin Darkhawaja

Ranin Darkhawaja
Swiss TPH
University of Basel

Personal Website

Supervisor: Nicole Probst-Hensch

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