Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology


College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Margaret Fish

Second Advisor

Linda Spatig

Third Advisor

Pamela Mulder


Access to health care is a challenge in rural communities. Higher rates of chronic illness and poor use of preventive health practices combine to increase mortality rates among residents of rural areas. The health status of residents of West Virginia is among the poorest in the United States. The current study utilizes both quantitative and qualitative methodology, including the use of surveys, participant observation and ethnographic interviews, to explore the health status, beliefs and social support of women in a rural Appalachian community. Seven major themes were identified relevant to women’s experiences with health care: Definitions of Health, Barriers and Aides to Obtaining Health Care, Attitude Towards Health Care, Faith’s Role, Environmental Factors, Home Remedies and Sources of Information. Health was defined as including both physical and mental health factors. Relationships and personal responsibility for one’s own health were seen as important. Barriers identified included lack of night and weekend coverage, cultural differences between providers and patients, fear of hearing negative news and the implications of substance abuse in the community. The use of a health care consumer approach to health care was seen as helpful in terms of getting one’s needs met and was often developed as the result of becoming a mother. The impact of faith on health care yielded mixed results. Concerns regarding the impact of coal mining on health were identified as an area of concern. Home remedies were utilized often as a part of managing health and this was consistent with the importance of family as a source of support and of information regarding health. Implications for alternative methods of service delivery are offered.


Women's health services


Health education of women


Rural health services