Bridging Disciplinary Boundaries (January 11 - 14, 2007)

Pacific B (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)

Multicultural Health Education: Sociocultural Factors in Tailoring Health Education for Older Latinos in Smaller Cities

Blanca M. Ramos, PhD, State University of New York at Albany, Deborah Smith, RNCS, EdD, Empire State College, Cristina Mogro-Wilson, MSW, State University of New York at Albany, Digna Betancour, MSW, State University of New York at Albany, and Anna Zendell, MSW, State University of New York at Albany.

Purpose: Health education can be an important source of empowerment and a vital conduit to address health disparities. Yet, little is known about the sociocultural factors that influence a health education program's success in reaching and benefiting Latino older adults in smaller cities. Drawing upon an interdisciplinary collaborative team—social welfare, public health, nursing—this exploratory study identified systemic barriers to, and cultural preferences for, health education among older Latinos. Participants were recruited through referrals, community events, and local media in a three county area in upstate New York with a 3% to 8.5% Latino population.

Methods: Six focus groups were conducted in Spanish. Participants (N = 62) were primarily women (73%), of low SES (76% less than $20,000), education (55% only elementary school), and acculturation. Each session lasted 90 minutes. Ten broad, open-ended questions with structured probes guided discussion. Sociodemographic questionnaires were completed. Focus groups were audio taped and transcribed. The transcripts were recorded and analyzed with Atlas.ti. Coding categories were developed through a consensus process where the transcripts were reviewed and patterns and themes identified until an exhaustive list that captured the range of responses was created. Individual raters coded statements based on the established coding guidelines. Raters reviewed their results together to ensure full agreement about appropriate coding categories for each response. Coding categories were combined into more general themes.

Results: Participants had little or no health education. Several interrelated themes identified older Latinos' systemic barriers and cultural preferences. These include the limited availability, accessibility, and cultural relevance of existing programs. The themes also identified a preference for programs that are culturally relevant, conducted in Spanish, held in community settings, and incorporate information on spirituality and alternative medicines. The information including translated printed materials needs to be provided in layperson's terms. The results will inform the development of a culturally tailored education program for older Latinos with sociodemographic characteristics similar to those of the sample in this study.

Implications: Familiarity with older Latino's sociocultural realities when planning health education interventions can help practitioners prevent systemic roadblocks and foster participation, saliency, and sustainability. The results can also inform policy makers and program developers in planning and implementing accessible, linguistic and culturally relevant health education programs. This is an important vehicle to reduce health disparities for older Latinos, a historically neglected, socially vulnerable older subpopulation. For social work researchers, collaborating in the design and implementation of multicultural health education studies, such as the one presented here, offers a unique opportunity to contribute to the bridging of disciplinary boundaries.