Women's Mental Health in Three Ethnically Diverse, Impoverished, and Underserved Communities

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mary Molewyk Doornbos, PhD
Department of Nursing, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to identify determinants of depression and anxiety for impoverished ethnically diverse women who lack consistent access to health care.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to identify potential culturally sensitive interventions for impoverished ethnically diverse women struggling with depression and anxiety.


Depression and anxiety are significant mental health issues in the United States today that tend to disproportionately affect women.  Gender specific risk factors include income inequality, subordinate social status, and extensive care-giving responsibilities.  Depression and anxiety create situations of significant burden particularly when access to care, and specifically culturally congruent care, is limited.   This study sought to document women’s concerns about, explore determinants of, and identify potential culturally sensitive interventions for depression and anxiety.


In the context of long-term collaborative partnerships between a department of nursing and three ethnically diverse, underserved and impoverished neighborhoods, a community based participatory research model was utilized. Philosophically a commitment has been made to share goals, responsibilities and power between the department of nursing and these neighborhoods in ways that recognize their strengths and seek their input relative to challenges that they might face.  Sixty-one women aged 18 – 69 years were recruited by lay community health workers employed by the department of nursing from three neighborhoods that are respectively predominately Black, Hispanic, and White.  Qualitative data was collected via six focus groups - two per neighborhood. Five of the focus groups were conducted in English while the sixth was conducted in Spanish.


The focus group data is currently being transcribed and will subsequently be analyzed via NVIVO qualitative research software. Preliminary content analysis suggests widespread mental health concerns, determinants that relate directly to the experience of poverty, and suggested interventions that are culturally unique.  The final results will be shared with the communities with the goal of developing a pilot intervention study deemed useful by the women.


This study has significant potential to promote women’s overall mental health while specifically preventing depression and anxiety disorders.  As such, the research can make important contributions to nursing practice and client outcomes.