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American Public Health Association
133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition
December 10-14, 2005
Philadelphia, PA
APHA 2005
4012.0: Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - 8:45 AM

Abstract #115817

Qualitative Study of religious/spiritual beliefs and practices effects on international humanitarian mental health projects

Jennifer Nolan, PhD student, Policy Analysis and Management, Cornell University, Martha Van Renselear Building, room 426, College of Human Ecology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, 607 280 0286, jan36@cornell.edu

This qualitative study is an analysis of exploratory interviews with researchers and professionals at international humanitarian organizations on the topic of spiritual/religious beliefs and practices influence on mental health, within the context of agency projects. The major themes explored are conceptualization of spiritual/religious and mental health factors and theorized mediating pathways, field experiences, and institution policies. This research provides a current overview on how socio-cultural beliefs of spirituality and religiosity and mental health are conceptualized and utilized within projects and through policy of international humanitarian agencies.

International humanitarian organizations have a priority interest in mental health issues. As most mental illnesses are chronic or reoccurring in nature, improving the quality of life is a focus of current international research. There is growing interest and understanding among researchers of the role which socio-cultural factors, particularly religious/spiritual beliefs have on mental health. An understanding of these factors may be better utilized to improve mental health within various populations.

Preliminary findings suggest that mental health projects which take into account in the design, implementation and evaluation of the projects, the socio-cultural beliefs and practices of the targeted population are more effective than projects which do not. Many international agencies do not have effective policies with adequate guidelines for health projects to account for socio-cultural beliefs and practices. Thus a preliminary recommendation is that more adequate policies be developed within international humanitarian agencies to include socio-cultural factors (such as religious or traditional beliefs and practices) in the design, implementation and evaluation of health projects.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Religion, International Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

I wish to disclose that I have NO financial interests or other relationship with the manufactures of commercial products, suppliers of commercial services or commercial supporters.

[ Recorded presentation ] Recorded presentation

Faith And Health Practices In Institutional Settings: Evaluation And Accountability

The 133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition (December 10-14, 2005) of APHA