MAPPing Residents' Perceptions of Health-Related Quality of Life and Community Needs in Southwest Virginia: An Exploratory Study


  • Audrey J Burnett James Madison University
  • Jody H Hershey New River Health District (Retired)
  • Heather T Pennington James Madison University


Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative study was to uncover the perceptions of health-related quality of life (HRQL) in relation to community characteristics among rural residents of six areas in Southwest Virginia (N = 90). Furthermore, the aim of the current study was to determine how various community characteristics (e.g., safety, access to health services) may impact residents' perception of HRQL. Methods: Utilizing an exploratory study approach, one of four assessments – the Community Themes and Strengths Assessment (CTSA) – of the health needs assessment tool, 'Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships' (MAPP), was implemented to provide insight into challenges and opportunities in the community. Semi-structured face-to-face interviews were the main source of data collection. Coding was performed via Atlas.ti, a qualitative data analysis software. Findings: Interviewees perceived a largely positive HRQL (e.g., ample green space, safe neighborhoods, good school system), with an urgent need for health care reform, affordable insurance premiums and co-payments, and transportation, particularly for after-hours medical care. Conclusions: The present study provides insight to the perceptions of HRQL and community characteristics among residents residing in six separate rural communities within one health district (New River Valley, Virginia). The findings suggest that community residents still perceive a good HRQL in their community, despite evidence of crime, lack of transportation, and inaccessible health care services. Lessons learned are also provided to help maximize community residents' HRQL. Keywords: health-related quality of life; community health; health assessment; rural health, qualitative research

Author Biographies

Audrey J Burnett, James Madison University

Audrey J. Burnett, PhD, CHES earned a master’s degree in human development/gerontology and doctorate in health promotion education, both from Virginia Tech. Dr. Burnett currently holds a tenure-track position in Health Sciences with James Madison University (Harrisonburg, VA), where she teaches human disease and contemporary health issues. Her extensive scholarly publication and professional presentation record encompasses quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods research studies involving special populations, such as preschool children, high school and college students, and older adults (aged 65 and older) on topics such as chronic disease, HIV/AIDS, religiosity and health, and community health needs assessment.

Jody H Hershey, New River Health District (Retired)

Dr. Hershey earned his MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School and PhD from Virginia Tech. He has practiced medicine with a variety of local hospitals and currently serves on the faculty of Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Following retirement from serving as health district director for the New River Valley (Christiansburg, VA office), Dr. Hershey serves as a national speaker and consultant for several pharmaceutical companies.

Heather T Pennington, James Madison University

Miss Pennington holds a BS in Health Sciences - Health Studies Program from James Madison University. She is currently pursuing a nursing degree and has a special interest in community health.






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