Exploring health disparities in rural regions of Virginia: The impact of health literacy and social capital

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Virginia Tech

In the United States, low-income, ethnic/racial minorities and rural populations are at increased risk for poorer health outcomes compared to higher income, non-minorities, and urban populations. Two key determinants that influence rural health disparities are health literacy and social capital. Health literacy can be described as an individual-level factor and defined as, "the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand the basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions." Social capital is a concept that accounts for the role of collective social functioning and has been defined as, "the features of social structures, such as levels of interpersonal trust and norms of reciprocity and mutual aid" which act as resources for individuals to facilitate collective action." The overarching goal of this research is to explore factors influencing health disparities, including health literacy, social capital in two rural regions of Virginia.

The first study is embedded in Talking Health, a larger 2-arm RCT targeting adults in rural Southwest Virginia and examined participants' perceptions of and satisfaction with components of a behavioral intervention designed using health literacy concepts to decrease sugary beverage intake in rural, low-health literacy participants. The second study is also embedded in the Talking Health trial, yet focused on the maintenance of behavior 12-months after the intervention concluded. Guided by RE-AIM, this study examined the reach, effectiveness and implementation of a 12-month randomized extended care intervention aimed at enhancing long-term maintenance of behavior change and study retention when compared to a control condition. The last study is part of a larger telephone surveillance survey conducted in the Dan River Region located in south central Virginia. This study described current levels of social capital in the Dan River Region and examined the influence of social capital on FV consumption, physical activity, sugary beverage intake and BMI on a sample of rural and urban adults.

health literacy, social capital, health disparities, sugar-sweetened beverages, lifestyle intervention, maintenance, satisfaction, rural