Healthy Spaces in Meaningful Places: The Rural Church and Women's Health Promotion

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The influence of place on health is beginning to be addressed in health research. Current understanding of rural places, however, remains in a state of disequilibrium, balancing between geographic and sociocultural positions. This article illuminates the significance of place for rural women's experiences of health promotion in the rural church. Design: This study used a novel approach to interpretive phenomenological methodology by including the photovoice method to elicit both individual and shared experiential meanings. Method: Twenty-two participants took pictures, wrote in logbooks, and participated in individual and group interviews to share their experiences of health promotion in the rural church. Findings: The church as a place was realized through three broad discourses: (a) an intersection of physical and geographic environments, (b) a gateway to experiential attachment and personal meaning, and (c) a connection to shared culture and beliefs. It is also suggested that place may best be interpreted with an experiential lens as it exhibits lived and felt spaces. Conclusions: Data analysis suggests that place consists of both physical and experiential realities, in addition to being a resource of culture and meaning. Implications for rural women's health promotion include fostering a deeper recognition of place-shaped experiences of health.

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