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African-American women's mental representations of hypertension

Mary S. Webb, PhD, RN and Lois O. Gonzalez, PhD, RN. College of Nursing, University of South Florida, MDC Box 22, 12901 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Tampa, FL 33612, 813 974-9133, mwebb@hsc.usf.edu

The purpose of this study was to describe the mental representations of a disease threat (hypertension) as generated by African American women. Their selection of and their ability to perform rational procedures for threat management was also explored. This study was guided by Leventhalís Self-Regulation Model and used a focus group methodology. Participants (n=47) were recruited through established community leaders within a metropolitan area in the southeastern United States. Purposive snowball sampling techniques were used to initiate contact with potential informants. A semi-structured interview was used to elicit perceptions of the threat and management of hypertension. Five focus group sessions were conducted. Data was analyzed using thematic and domain analyses to categorize the participantís responses. Four major themes were generated: (1) Vulnerability and Inevitability, (2) Psychological Burdens, (3) Barriers to Effective Management, and (4) Culturally Relevant Remedies. Vulnerability and inevitability fell into personal experience and a more global, societal view. Psychological burdens were described as contributing to the high rates of hypertension. Lack of access to health care, financial restraints, and negative perceptions of health professionals were identified as barriers to effective management. A strong belief in the need for community-based interventions that are culturally appropriate and affordable was reported. African American women have some of the highest rates of cardiovascular mortality and morbidity in the developed world. A major contributing cause is the high prevelance of hypertension in this population. Acquiring a clear perspective of African American womenís perceptions of hypertension can serve as a model for developing the use of preventive health care for this population. Findings from this study are being used to facilitate the implementation of a community-based intervention modeled specifically for African American women.

Learning Objectives:

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Womens Issues

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA