Examining results from two surveys of the Brazos Valley, a recent study involving the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) School of Rural Public Health found African-Americans and women were at a greater risk for depression in predominately rural regions.
In the article, “Assessing Depression in Rural Communities,” in the March issue of Journal of Clinical Psychology, researchers from the school, Texas A&M University and the Veterans Affairs Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System analyzed responses from the Brazos Valley Health Assessment surveys of 2006 and 2010.
According to Daniel F. Brossart, Ph.D., lead author and Texas A&M associate professor, the study found women and African-Americans in underserved and predominately rural areas may face unique issues that undermine their emotional well-being and potentially lead to the development of depressive symptoms.
The survey used of the seven Brazos Valley counties – Brazos, Burleson, Grimes, Leon, Madison, Robertson and Washington – was created by the Center for Community Health Development (CCHD) in the TAMHSC-School of Rural Public Health to gather individual and community information that provides an overview of the health status of the local community, as well as document issues that may need to be addressed to improve the local population’s health.
The assessment process includes a household survey, community discussion groups and an analysis of existing data that will provide context and comparison for the data gathered through the survey and discussion groups. The CCHD conducts these assessments every four years to inform policies and assist local organizations and communities in understanding the health-related needs of the residents.
“Our assessment process is designed to provide data that helps communities and the organizations that serve them,” said Monica L. Wendel, Dr.P.H., co-writer and assistant dean for Community Health Systems Innovation at TAMHSC-School of Rural Public Health and CCHD director. “Identifying populations at risk and potential factors underlying that risk helps us develop better services and programs to reach those who need it most.”
Emphasis was given to the importance of a systematic assessment and culturally sensitive treatment to better meet the needs of ethnic minorities and women in this underserved region. Men and women in rural areas are less likely to receive quality mental health treatment than those in more metropolitan communities.
In addition, issues of poverty, social isolation and limited access to premium health care that is present for underserved rural populations are even more compounded for ethnic minorities. It is argued there is a need for a more comprehensive assessment and treatment plan for the communities in these regions.
Additional authors included Timothy R. Elliot, Ph.D., and Linda G. Castillo, Ph.D., Texas A&M professors of educational psychology; Helene E. Cook, VA Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System; and James N. Burdine, Dr.P.H., TAMHSC-School of Rural Public Health interim dean and assistant dean of public health practice.