Background: There have been calls for research to include contextual and macrolevel factors within explanatory models of human health. A network approach focuses on the influence of relationships to predict behavior. Objectives: The first objective was to describe the social network paradigm based in sociology that uses network principles and methods to visualize, quantify, and predict outcomes using the structure and function of relationships. The second objective was to discuss applications of this approach in the context of health to guide future research in pharmacy. Methods: This was a descriptive overview of conceptual models, methods, measures, and analyses that are used in the social network paradigm. Results: The social network paradigm contains conceptual models that rely on relational and structural assumptions to make predictions related to human behavior. Although there is not 1 dominate theory of social networks, several models hold across applications and are commonly used by scholars. The methodology emphasized considerations of network boundaries, sampling strategies, and the type of data collected. Specific variables used in social network analysis were defined and dichotomized into constructs of centrality and cohesion. Network analysis was described in terms of available computational programs, data management, and statistical testing. Related research in health care was applied and ideas for pharmacy were proposed using a social network-based theoretical model. Conclusions: There is growing momentum for health behaviorists to gain familiarity for studying the effect of social networks on behavior. Applications in pharmacy using social network models, methods, and analysis can be used as a stand-alone perspective or in conjunction with other theoretical perspectives in an effort to explain human health or organizational behavior in health care settings.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The first author would like to gratefully acknowledge the significant influence of the faculty, graduate students, and associates at the LINKS Center for Social Network Analysis at the University of Kentucky (UK) who provided resources, expertise, and guidance on the methods and analyses discussed herein. Funding to the first author for attending research workshops at the UK LINKS Center was provided by the Jorndt Faculty Development Fund and Drake University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Also, special thanks to Daniel Ricci who assisted in reviewing earlier versions of this manuscript.
- Social network
- Social relationships
- Theoretical model