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Keywords:

  • community support;
  • social disadvantage;
  • social support;
  • vulnerable groups

Strengthening the physical and social environment has been shown to support health and strengthen community action for health. In an attempt to improve the social factors that influence the health of individuals and the community, community interventions increasingly include strategies to build networks and social capital and develop resilience. This study was undertaken to identify the most appropriate strategies to strengthen friendships and the social support networks for women aged 18–39 years living in Villawood, an area of high disadvantage in South Western Sydney, Australia. Although the majority reported positively on their health, one-third reported feeling isolated, experienced low energy levels and felt unhappy and anxious over the past month. Women who described themselves as unemployed felt more isolated than women in home duties. Women who were employed or engaged in home duties had more contact with neighbours, and had more in common with their neighbours. Those who reported more contact with their neighbours perceived their mental healthlevel as being higher. These results indicate that community development initiatives should include consultation with the community and consider the needs of socially isolated groups and those with the poorest health status.