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Social capital and income inequality have been proposed as important mediators of the relation between the material environment and health outcomes. We determined whether indicators of social capital are (i) associated with neighbourhood gonorrhea rates, and (ii) mediate the relation between alcohol outlet density and gonorrhea rate. Longitudinal analyses of age- and sex-adjusted gonorrhea cases reported from 1990 to 1996 in the 445 census tracts affected by the 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles, California was conducted. The role of alcohol outlets was assessed both as tracts with surrendered off-sale outlets due to the civil unrest and annual off-sale alcohol outlet density rates. Tract level voting rates were used as one indicator of social capital, while neighbourhood structure conducive to social organization was used as another. Neighbourhoods with greater voting over time and greater endogenous social organization experienced 1.9 and 67.2 fewer gonorrhea cases per 100,000. Results also reveal a partial mediating role of social capital on the relationship between alcohol outlet density and gonorrhea rate. The alcohol environment may have a direct or partially mediated role in infectious disease outcomes such as gonorrhea. Our findings support the importance of continuing controls and limits on off-premise alcohol outlet density, as a potential means of reducing gonorrhea rates and increasing social capital.
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