Niakhar Social Networks and Health Project

The NSNHP is a large social network project which has multiple qualitiative, survey, and methodological components. These are described in depth below, but can be seen at a glance in  this graphic overview of the project and in a technical overview of data collection activities

Social network processes are thought to be key to understanding diffusion of innovation and adoption of new behaviors with regard to health. The current project has generated a unique source of individual level social network data, addressing fundamental problems in conventional social network research designs, which can be used for analysing issues related to social learning and influence in epidemiological, demographic, public health and social scientific research.

Funded by NIGMS (R01GM096999), the NSNHP, was carried out in collaboration with the Niakhar Health and Demographic Surveillance System (NDHSS; a small scale population registration system) in rural Senegal, West Africa maintained by the French agency l'institute de recherche pour le developement (IRD), The fundamental innovation of this project is in linking network members cited by survey respondents to longitudinally collected data concerning their health behaviors in the NDHSS. This innovation has allowed the project to identify many more network members (or alters) than possible with conventional designs linked to objective, prospectively collected information on both respondents' and alters' demographic and health behaviors from the NDHSS, as well as  extensive information about tie stength and modality between respondents and their alters.  For these reasons, this data will make possible better estimates of the effects of the structure of network ties, and social learning and social influence on health than were previously possible.  

Project components include:

Extensive qualitative data in the form of disease narratives concerning beliefs and behaviors related to health and illness among the population of the study area. This data is currently available for public use.

A two-panel social network survey of a large, representative sample of the population of the study area, and the entire population of one village in the study area, allowing for sociocentric (or structural) social network analysis. The main survey instrument contains a large module concerning hierachical cognitive schemas related to heatlh, and a substantive module covering a number of demographic and health related topics, including fertility, family planning, health seeking behavior, mental heatlh and intimate partner violene (IPV).

An inter-panel re-interview designed to assess network stability and respondents' knowledge of alter attributes, including ideation, and objective demographic and economic characteristics as measured in the NDHSS and the associated wealth and houshold goods survey fielded contemporaneously with the NSNHP.

An inter-panel network roster survey, in which individuals selected as alters in the first panel of the survey were interviewed and asked to identify individuals with whom they have social ties from a list in which the first panel respondents who cited them were included, in a double-blind design. The roster survey also contains questions concerning knowledge of alter attributes, and includes an experimental design to assess conformity and concensus survey effects related to question ordering.