Social determinants of health among African Americans in a rural community in the Deep South: an ecological exploration.

Jiann Ping Hsu College of Public Health, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia, USA.
Rural and remote health (Impact Factor: 0.87). 01/2011; 11(1):1634.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT African Americans living in rural USA experience multiple health disparities as a result of both race and rural geography. An increasing literature suggests that social determinants of health, the social contexts in which people live their lives, are key contributors to these health disparities. Ecological theory provides a valuable conceptual framework for exploring social determinants of health in communities, but few US rural health community-based studies have utilized this approach, or engaged ecological theory to explore rural contexts. This exploratory study blended a community-based, qualitative approach with ecological theory with the objective of identifying potential social determinants of health among African Americans in a rural community in the Deep South, from the perspectives of participants.
In-depth interviews were conducted with rural, Deep South African Americans participants who were purposefully sampled to incorporate a range of perspectives. Interview guides structured around five ecological levels (individual, relational, environmental, structural, and superstructural) were used to frame interviews. Iterative content analysis of interview transcripts and field notes identified potential social determinants of health. An 'editing' approach to content analysis was used. Data and analysis quality was tested by triangulation at the level of the researcher, and by member checking with community members.
Potential determinants of health were identified at all five levels of the ecological framework. At the individual level, lack of engagement with personal health and health promotion was a recurring theme. Participation in preventive health activities and education was minimal, even when offered in community settings. At the relational level, lack of social capital emerged as another potential social determinant of health, with estrangement between the younger and elder generations as one source, and fractiousness among churches (key institutions in the community) representing another. At the environmental level, the community built environment was an area of concern as it lacked opportunities for physical activity and access to healthy foods. The local job environment was identified as a potential social determinant of health, given the strong ties between income and health. At the structural level, participants complained of cronyism and nepotism favoring Whites in access to jobs, including those where local policies and funding allocations were made (eg funding for the local health department). In education, school system tracking policies were perceived to discourage African Americans from university education. At the superstructural level, high rates of poverty and racism emerged as potential social determinants. Poverty directly limited many African Americans' access to quality health care, and subtle racism was perceived in some delivery of care. Persistent stress from poverty and racism was reported, which creates health risks through physiologic pathways.
This study identified potential social determinants of health, at multiple ecological levels, among African Americans in a rural community in the Deep South. The social determinants identified had the ability to impact a variety of health behaviors and health outcomes. The results demonstrate the value of this approach to conducting rural, community-based research. This descriptive and exploratory study highlights the need for quantitative exploration of these issues, as well as the development of context-appropriate, community-based health interventions that address multiple ecological levels.

  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: African American women in the Deep South of the United States are disproportionately obese, a condition strongly influenced by their social environment. The objective of this study was to characterize the prevalence of social support from family and friends for healthy eating and exercise in rural communities. This study is an analysis of a subgroup (N = 195) of overweight and obese African American women from a larger ongoing weight loss trial (N = 409) in rural communities of the Alabama Black Belt and Mississippi Delta. The Social Support and Eating Habits Survey and Social Support and Exercise Survey were used to measure support from family and friends for healthy eating and exercise, respectively. Linear regression was conducted to determine the association between social support factors and body mass index (BMI). Concurrently prevalent in our sample were encouraging support for healthy eating (family, median,14.0; range, 5.0-25.0; friends, median, 13.0; range 5.0-25.0) and discouraging support for healthy eating (family, median, 12.0; range, 5.0-25.0; friends, median, 11.0; range, 5.0-25.0). Median scores for support for exercise received in the form of participation from family and friends were 24.0 (range 10.0-48.0) and 24.0 (range 10.0-50.0), respectively. The median score for support for exercise in the form of rewards and punishment from family was 3.0 (range, 3.0-11.0). Social support factors were not associated with BMI. Overweight and obese African American women in the rural Deep South experience minimal social support from family and friends for healthy eating and exercise. Given the evidence that social support promotes healthy behaviors, additional research on ways to increase support from family and friends is warranted.
    Preventing chronic disease 12/2014; 11:E224. DOI:10.5888/pcd11.140340 · 1.96 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Objective: To discuss how the effects of culture, economy, and geographical location intersect to form a gestalt triad determining health-related disparities in rural areas. Methods: We critically profile each component of the deterministic triad in shaping current health-related disparities in rural areas; evaluate the uniquely composed intersections of these disparities in relation to Human Papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancer prevention in three isolated rural Georgia counties; and develop implications for future leadership in rural healthcare research, policy, and practice. Results: The deterministic triad of culture, economy, and geographical location is unique to a rural community, and even if two rural communities experience the same health disparity, each community is likely to have a discretely different composition of cultural, economic, and geographic determinants. Conclusion: The deterministic triad presents a challenge for health policymakers, researchers, and practitioners trying to develop health-related interventions that are equitable, efficacious, and practical in low-resource rural communities. The situation is worsened by the limited opportunities for employment, which leads to greater disparities and creates propagating cultural norms that further reduce access to healthcare and opportunities for sustainable health promotion.
    Health Education Journal 05/2014; 73(3):285-294. DOI:10.1177/0017896912471049 · 0.73 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: PurposeAlthough tablet computers offer advantages in data collection over traditional paper-and-pencil methods, little research has examined whether the 2 formats yield similar responses, especially with underserved populations. We compared the 2 survey formats and tested whether participants’ responses to common health questionnaires or perceptions of usability differed by survey format. We also tested whether we could replicate established paper-and-pencil findings via tablet computer.Methods We recruited a sample of low-income community members living in the rural southern United States. Participants were 170 residents (black = 49%; white = 36%; other races and missing data = 15%) drawn from 2 counties meeting Florida's state statutory definition of rural with 100 persons or fewer per square mile. We randomly assigned participants to complete scales (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Inventory and Regulatory Focus Questionnaire) along with survey format usability ratings via paper-and-pencil or tablet computer. All participants rated a series of previously validated posters using a tablet computer. Finally, participants completed comparisons of the survey formats and reported survey format preferences.FindingsParticipants preferred using the tablet computer and showed no significant differences between formats in mean responses, scale reliabilities, or in participants’ usability ratings.Conclusions Overall, participants reported similar scales responses and usability ratings between formats. However, participants reported both preferring and enjoying responding via tablet computer more. Collectively, these findings are among the first data to show that tablet computers represent a suitable substitute among an underrepresented rural sample for paper-and-pencil methodology in survey research.
    The Journal of Rural Health 09/2014; 31(1). DOI:10.1111/jrh.12095 · 1.77 Impact Factor