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Promoting the health of families of children with disabilities: acceptability and utility of a health-mentoring project

Caring can have both positive and negative impacts on health, but the parental responsibility of caring for a child with a disability has the potential to result in depression, social isolation, and other physical and mental health problems. Mothers in particular bear the greatest burden associated with their child’s care, which can mean that they experience a range of both psychological and physical health problems. This research study investigated the acceptability and utility of a health-mentoring project to support mothers and families of children with disabilities, to improve their health. Action research provided the methodological framework for introduction of the health-mentoring processes, as change in family health practices was a desired outcome of the project. Purposive sampling was used to attract participants to the study. Five families, 10final-y ear Bachelor of Nursing students, and two nurse academics participated in the phases of the action research cycle while they developed and implemented the health mentoring project. Health strengths and problems were identified by the families through the mentoring process. In collaboration with students, families prioritised goals for action on health promotion, and students educated families to engage in health promotion practices. Families reported enhanced levels of wellness and coping. This project demonstrated two favourable outcomes: first, health mentoring was found to be a useful strategy for promoting the health of mothers and their families, and second, the project provided an effective method for teaching nursing students to develop the professional skills required for practice in health promotion.

Author(s): Sandra Mackey, Linda D Goddard

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