Low-income Euro-American Mothers' Perceptions of Health and Self-care Practices


Elnora P. Mendias, School of Nursing, The University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Blvd., Galveston, TX 77555-1029. E-mail: nmendias@utmb.edu


ABSTRACT Objective: Health promotion activities may decrease preventable diseases and health system overuse. This study examined how low-income Euro-American mothers described their health/wellness, self-care practices (SCP), and SCP benefits, barriers, and interpersonal influences (norms, modeling, and social support) affecting their SCP.

Design and Sample: This descriptive qualitative study used a convenience sample of 10 low-income, English-speaking mothers, 25–43 years old, seeking women's/children's health services at a large urban Texas health clinic.

Measures: Data were collected via face-to-face interviews, using a standardized semistructured interview guide; data were analyzed using Miles and Huberman's qualitative research methods.

Results: All participants primarily described themselves positively and as mothers and workers. Most viewed health and wellness as distinct but typically included physical and emotional well-being. Mothers valued health and SCP for personal and family reasons. All identified SCP benefits. Most identified SCP barriers. Women viewed themselves as vital to family function and well-being, learned SCP primarily from parents during childhood, and described limited support for SCP.

Conclusions: The results provide a better understanding of participants' self-care decision making and are useful in designing appropriate clinical health promotions. Reducing health inequities in low-income women requires further study of the underlying causes and development of effective policies and measures to address them.