Wellness in Tough Times

Assessing Mental and Physical Health-Related Qual i ty of Life Issues in Rural Communi ties Fol lowing a Natural Disaster By Michelle Krehbiel Need Nebraska Extension responded to local physical and mental health needs following a bomb cyclone— which caused major flooding—by providing educational materials, making connections to various resources, and engaging in community organizing. In addition to responding to the various immediate needs, Extension also helped with recovery efforts. Helping communities evaluate and assess their readiness to assist community members’ physical and mental health-related quality-of-life issues was a determined need. Social determinants of health (HHS, n.d.) and health related quality of life (CDC, 2018) were used as the theoretical concepts guiding the study. The goal of the study was to assess and investigate key community leaders’ beliefs and perceptions about community attitudes, culture, and resources to address physical and mental health-related quality-of-life issues after experiencing a major disaster. Research The “Health-Related Quality of Life” (HRQoL) community readiness assessment was used in 2020 with five communities to research the mental and physical quality of life. The assessment consisted of demographic, closed-ended, and open-ended questions. Closed- and open-ended questions spanned six dimensions: leadership energy, issue awareness, participation, inclusivity, resources, and entrepreneurial activities. Key community members completed a survey and then participated in a follow-up interview. Data Analysis and Results Quantitative data were analyzed using SPSS, Version 19, and the in-depth interview transcripts were analyzed by two researchers following qualitative research methods to categorize themes and subthemes. Seventeen individuals representing five communities completed interviews. Out of those interviewed, 14 completed the survey assessment instrument. Demographics of Participants Survey respondents (n=14) represented education (11.5%), community-based organizations (15.4%), health care systems (15.4%), businesses (19.2%), government (19.2%), non-profit organizations (11.5%), and other (7.7%). Ages of survey respondents ranged from 25-64 years old, and time lived in communities ranged from zero to three years to 16-plus years, with almost half reporting 16-plus years in their respective communities (46%). Household income level ranged from $35,000 to $149,999. Survey Results The average total readiness score across all communities assessed fell into the “moderately ready” category regarding readiness to address mental and physical health-related quality of life issues. Leadership energy and entrepreneurial activities were ranked highest in terms of readiness by


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