Practicing Preventive Health: The Underlying Culture Among Low-Income Rural Populations


  • The authors would like to thank the Mayor of Dubach Township and all the Community Health Mentors for their assistance in the recruitment of participants for the focus groups. This project was part of a community-wide project funded by the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA). For further information, contact: Mary W. Murimi, PhD, LDN, RD, School of Human Ecology, Louisiana Tech University, 261 Carson Taylor Hall, P.O. Box 3167, Ruston, LA 71272; e-mail


Context: Health disparities on the basis of geographic location, social economic factors and education levels are well documented. However, even when health care services are available, there is no guarantee that all persons will take preventive health measures. Understanding the cultural beliefs, practices, and lifestyle choices that determine utilization of health services is an important factor in combating chronic diseases.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate personal, cultural, and external barriers that interfered with participating in a community-based preventive outreach program that included health screening for obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, and hypertension when cost and transportation factors were addressed.

Methods: Six focus groups were conducted in a rural community of Louisiana. Focus groups were divided into 2 categories: participants and nonparticipants. Three focus groups were completed with Dubach Health Outreach Project (DUHOP) participants and 3 were completed with nonparticipants. The focus group interviews were moderated by a researcher experienced in focus group interviews; a graduate student assisted with recording and note-taking during the sessions.

Findings: Four main themes associated with barriers to participation in preventive services emerged from the discussions: (1) time, (2) low priority, (3) fear of the unknown, and (4) lack of companionship or support. Health concerns, free services, enjoyment, and free food were identified as motivators for participation.

Conclusions: The findings of this study indicated that the resulting synergy between low-income status and a lack of motivation regarding health care prevention created a complicated practice of health care procrastination, which resulted in unnecessary emergency care and disease progression. To change this practice to proactive disease prevention and self care, a concerted effort will need to be implemented by policy makers, funding agents, health care providers, and community leaders and members.