The Influence of Spirituality on Health Care-Seeking Behaviors among African Americans

Article excerpt

Abstract: This study examined spirituality in the cultural context of African Americans and how it relates to their health care-seeking behaviors. Focus group methodology was utilized for data collection. Three focus (3) groups were conducted in the Hampton Roads area. The sample consisted of African American men (n = 12, 35%) and women (n = 22, 65%). Between 11 and 12 participants were in each group for a total of 34 participants, ranging in age between 10 and 80 years. A semi-structured interview guide facilitated the focus groups. This guide was designed to facilitate the subjects' overall perceptions of spirituality, health and health care-seeking behaviors. Focus group data were transcribed and analyzed by selecting phrases exemplifying common themes. Result: The findings indicated that spirituality had an influence on health and health-care seeking behaviors in African Americans. It was concluded that spirituality should be a focus for health care professionals in providing holistic care for African Americans.

Key Words: Spirituality, Health Care, Health seeking Behaviors, African Americans

Spirituality is deeply embedded in the rich cultural heritage of African Americans. For African Americans, spirituality is intertwined into all aspects of life, including beliefs about health and illness (Polzer, 2005). Many people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds believe that religion and spirituality favorably impact their lives and that well-being, good health, and religious commitment or faith are integrally intertwined (Mansfield, Mitchell, & King, 2002). Resent studies have examined the phenomena of spirituality, meditation, and prayer. Tacon, McComb, Caldera, and Randolph (2003) and Levin and Taylor (1997) pointed out the significant role of prayer and/or meditation in helping individuals cope with societal pressures and illness.

REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

Mansfield and Mitchell (2002) examined spiritual practices and beliefs related to healing concluded that African Americans were more likely than Whites to believe that God acts through physicians. However, few studies have addressed spirituality in the context of how it relates to African Americans and the possible interaction between spirituality and health care-seeking behaviors in African Americans. Attention to spirituality is especially important for nurses when providing care to African Americans. Abrums (2000) examined dimensions of African American women's belief systems. The purpose of this study was to understand the views and experiences of a small group of poor and working class Black women from a storefront church in Seattle Washington. The study used an ethnographic approach, including a narrative analysis of life history interviews in order to examine how the life experiences and belief systems of the participants informed and influenced their opinions and interactions with the health care system that is dominated by Whites. The women had clear views about the health care system that they shared with the investigator for 18 months.

The women participating in this study were between 19 and 82 years. The participants' incomes ranged from those who lived at a subsistence level on income received from social services or disability to the working poor were earned less than $10,000 at their jobs. Some participants were employed at "good jobs" as bus drivers while others were unemployed. The women varied in level of education, ranging from those who had a 4th grade education to those who had attended college.

The study design was combined consisting of ethnographic participant observation and feminist methodology using an interviewing tool based on a feminist framework. The qualitative ethnographic portion of this study was conducted with the group of women, their families, and church leaders who all attended a Baptist church in a Central District in Seattle. Data were generated by observation and obtaining the women's views about daily experiences with race, class, and gender. …

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