Stories from Across the Nation: Focus Groups and Qualitative Research with Vulnerable Populations

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To date, the Fund has relied largely on quantitative research and environmental scans to better understand the health care and social service needs of vulnerable populations and to identify ways to improve their health outcomes. To gain a fuller understanding of their experiences, however, it can be invaluable to listen to patients and share their personal stories of engaging with and navigating the health care system and Medicaid. SSRS will partner with Hispanic Research, Inc., an industry leader in qualitative research involving vulnerable populations in the United States, to conduct eight two-hour focus groups with eight to 10 individuals. The participants will be asked about their main challenges in navigating the health system, how they manage their health, and the difficulties they face accessing behavioral health care and social services. Two focus groups will be conducted in each of four cities. Three groups will comprise African Americans, three will comprise Hispanics (two sessions will be conducted in Spanish), and one will comprise Caucasians; one group will be mixed. Participants will reflect urban and rural locations, states that have expanded Medicaid and those that have not, parents and nonparents, and insured and uninsured. Caucasians in rural areas will be reached by telephone and engaged in an online "bulletin board" discussion. To ensure the inclusion of diverse Asian American voices, the project team will conduct a bulletin board discussion with English-speaking Asian American community activists, leaders, and social workers (the most feasible approach given the diversity of languages spoken and cultural obstacles to focus group participation). Commonwealth Fund staff will develop the first draft of the discussion guides and collaborate with SSRS and Hispanic Research on the final guide. Given the current debate over the future of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, it is important to hear from low-income and other vulnerable populations about their health care experiences. Focus group findings will help inform this national discussion and the Fund's grantmaking strategy.

Grant Details

Grantee Organization:
SSRS
Principal Investigator:
Robyn Rapoport, M.A.
Award Amount:
$160,682.00
Approval Date:
April 11, 2017

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