A qualitative study of social connectedness and its relationship to community health programs in rural Chiapas, Mexico

Rachel L. Deitz, Leah H. Hellerstein, Sara M. St. George, Daniel Palazuelos, Trisha E. Schimek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Social connectedness is an important predictor of health outcomes and plays a large role in the physical and mental health of an individual and a community. The presence of a functioning health clinic with a community health worker program may indirectly improve health outcomes by increasing the social connectedness of the community in addition to providing direct patient care. This study examines the social connectedness of the inhabitants of three Mexican towns within the catchment area of a healthcare Non-Government Organization (NGO) through a qualitative analysis. Methods: Willing participants were videotaped answering open-ended questions about their community and use of healthcare resources. Interviews were then coded for relevant themes and analyzed for content relating to social connectedness, social isolation, and health. Results: Respondents reported that having a functioning community clinic had improved their lives significantly through direct provision of care and by reducing the financial burden of travel to seek medical care elsewhere. Respondents from each town differed slightly in their primary means of social support. One town relied more heavily on organized groups (i.e., religious groups) for their support system. Social isolation was reported most frequently by housewives who felt isolated in the home and by respondents that had to deal with personal illness. Respondents that self-identified as Community Health Workers (CHWs) in their respective communities acknowledged that their roles bestowed physical and psychological health benefits upon themselves and their families. Conclusions: Overall, a long-term health intervention may directly impact the relative social isolation and social connectedness of a community's inhabitants. The social connectedness of the community is an important quality that must be considered when evaluating and planning health interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number852
JournalBMC public health
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 3 2020

Keywords

  • Community health worker
  • Community interventions
  • Mexico
  • NGO
  • Qualitative analysis
  • Social connectedness
  • Social isolation
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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