Conference paper
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Social connectedness increases physical and psychological wellbeing, reducing rates of morbidity and mortality. New communities, on the fringe of Australian cities, have residents who are at particular risk of social isolation, making it important to identify facilitators of social connectedness that could be utilised in these settings. Whilst a myriad of programs exist, the evidence around the success of these is limited. This paper describes a project carried out in collaboration with an outer-suburban local government, to assess facilitators of social connectedness implemented at a community level. A systematic approach to reviewing the evidence was taken. Peer-reviewed literature from 2006-2016 was appraised. Studies that related to services under the auspice of state/national governments (e.g. provision of public transport and infrastructure) were excluded, as were studies that described programs without providing any outcomes. Twenty publications were identified that fulfilled the inclusion criteria and assessed facilitators of social connectedness. These could be grouped into five categories; arts, physical activity, environmental, volunteering and education/support facilitators, and could be further sub-divided by focus on particular population groups. Limitations included: most programs were implemented in established communities and neighbourhoods and; many papers described pilot studies with poor follow-up procedures so while social connectedness was improved in the short term, the long term effects of these programs were unknown. This paper thus provides much-needed evidence for the effectiveness of community-based facilitators of social connectedness that will be of use to local government in implementing new programs in their communities.

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