Communities and individuals in many sub-Saharan African countries often face limited access to healthcare. Hence, many rely on social networks to enhance their chances for adequate health care. While this knowledge is well-established, little is known about the nuances of how different population groups activate these networks to improve access to healthcare. This paper examines how rural and urban dwellers in the Ashanti Region in Ghana distinctively and systematically activate their social networks to enhance access to healthcare. It uses a qualitative cross-sectional design, with in-depth interviews of 79 primary participants (28 urban and 51 rural residents) in addition to the views of eight community leaders and eight health personnel. It was discovered that both intimate and distanced social networks for healthcare are activated at different periods by rural and urban residents. Four main stages of social networks activation, comprising different individuals and groups were observed among rural and urban dwellers. Among both groups, physical proximity, privacy, trust and sense of fairness, socio-cultural meaning attached to health problems, and perceived knowledge and other resources (mainly money) held in specific networks inherently influenced social network activation. The paper posits that a critical analysis of social networks may help to tailor policy contents to individuals and groups with limited access to healthcare.
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