Health promotion needs of women living in rural areas: an exploratory study

Elan C Paluck, Marilee Allerdings, Kinda Kealy, Heather Dorgan
Canadian Journal of Rural Medicine 2006, 11 (2): 111-6

OBJECTIVES: To describe the types of health-promoting activities currently engaged in by women who live in rural communities, to explore perceived barriers and facilitators to staying healthy in rural communities, and to examine how these factors may differ for women throughout their adult life.

DESIGN: Qualitative pilot study.

PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING: Women aged 18 years and older living in a small rural community in Saskatchewan.

METHOD: Eight focus groups were conducted with a total of 44 participants who had been stratified into 3 age groups. Content analysis of the focus group transcripts was undertaken.

MAIN FINDINGS: Older women were more likely to report that they engage in a balance of activities to promote their physical and mental health. Middle and younger aged women, however, were more likely to engage in activities to promote their physical health, with less emphasis on their mental health. Among the 3 age groups, exercise and nutrition-related activities were most commonly reported. Social support and the "rural way of life" were the most commonly reported community supports available to these women. Younger women were more likely to discuss family commitments as a barrier to maintaining physical fitness,and older women discussed the impact that loneliness and lack of appropriate exercise options had on healthy living in their community.

CONCLUSION: The interviews provided a chance for a group of rural women to paint their own picture of promoting and maintaining their health in their own community. The activities engaged in by women to maintain their health, and the barriers and facilitators to staying healthy were different for women of different ages. It is useful for health planners to understand how women's health promotion needs vary across their adult life span.

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