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Interactions of Individual, Family, Community, and Policy Contexts on the Mental and Physical Health of Diverse Rural Low-income Families
Community and Leadership Development
The purpose of this multi-state project is to examine the effects of interactions among individual, family, community, and policy contexts on the physical and mental health outcomes for rural low-income families. It extends the previous research conducted within the multi-state projects NC223 and NC1011.
Good mental and physical health are important for quality of life. However, research shows rural residents experience health disparities in the incidence, prevalence, morbidity, and mortality rates for disease. Understanding the factors or combination of factors that contribute to these disparities can help to improve the quality of life among low-income rural families.
Investigators in this project will collect quantitative and qualitative data from approximately 600 families living in ten states. Data will be collected on health outcomes, family and individual level characteristics, community factors, and policies affecting low-income families. Quantitative data will be collected in years 2 and 4, and in-depth qualitative data will be collected in year 3. Data will be analyzed to assess the independent and combined contributions of individual, family, community, and policy contexts on health outcomes for the participating families.
As a result of this project, we expect to the body of knowledge regarding the well-being of rural communities and diverse rural low-income families. A better understanding of rural family health can lead to better quality of life and therefore sustainable rural communities. Families who are not healthy are not able to contribute to their communities, socially or economically. The study will provide data for customizing programs and public policy to meet the needs of rural America. It also will expand the capacity of the land-grant system to educate and train graduate student researchers; enrich the curricula of courses in sociology, economics, family studies, nutrition and health; inform the programming that Cooperative Extension offers to families and communities across each state; and extend expertise of the system to citizens in support of the prosperity of rural America.
2010 Project Description
Analyses continued on data collected from former NC223/1011 projects while survey protocols were being developed for a new wave of data collection in several low-income Appalachian counties in 2011. Research findings related to health, food insecurity, and employment challenges faced by low-income rural families were presented at national professional meetings to researchers and practitioners as follows:
Kropczynski, J. & Dyk, P., (2010, February) Rural Families Speak About Family Health Challenges to Sustained Employment (oral, symposium) Southern Rural Sociological Association, Orlando, FL. Findings from qualitative analysis illustrate how mothers' own health is not the only barrier to employment, often partner or child's health play a large role.
Social and Economic Underpinnings to Understanding Housing Affordability for Rural Families (oral, symposium) Rural Sociological Society, Atlanta, GA. During the current economic recession, nonprofits and policy makers have been working toward policy that will improve families' economic conditions. Using data from the longitudinal multi-state, Rural Families Speak project, principle component analysis is used to identify common underpinnings of families' economic situation. This study specifically addresses the question, can income, outside assistance, food security, stable employment, adult health, and knowledge of community resources be reduced down to underlying dimensions of families' housing affordability? Common factors that explain variability among families are then analyzed using logistic regression to highlight variables most significant to families' economic well-being.
Findings from our work in Kentucky show that poverty and health status are consistently linked for rural families, and the recursive nature of the relationships between poverty and poverty-related household characteristics (e.g., food insecurity, poor quality housing) and family health status may contribute to a cycle of poverty.
We continue to see how health barriers within the family affect sustained employment for the family as a whole. Results of our qualitative analysis illustrate how mother's own health is not the only barrier to employment, often partner or child's health play a large role. In addition, the ability to meet basic needs of housing, food security, and health services is particularly challenging for low income rural families with children. There exists a complex interplay of household and community context factors that underlie a families' ability to access resources to meet their needs including income, outside assistance, food security, stable employment, adult health, and knowledge and accessibility of community resources.