School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


Marsha Coker


public health education, experiential education, rural public health education, public health


Education | Public Health


The purpose of this hermeneutic phenomenological study was to interpret the public health education experiences of rural residents in one predominantly rural county. This county was identified by its pseudonym, Middlesex County, for the purposes of this paper. The research was done to identify causal factors contributing to the problem of non-compliance exhibited by many rural residents. The non-compliance has resulted in many of those residents choosing to not implement beneficial practices and information from public health education. The guiding behavioral theory for this study was Maslow’s behavioral theory of a hierarchy of needs. This theory describes the rationale behind why people make the choices that they do. The guiding methodology for this study was hermeneutic phenomenology, as that research design enabled the researcher to better understand the subjective experiences of the research participants. Purposeful sampling was conducted to obtain 12 participants. Data was collected via in-person interviews, surveys, and focus groups, and analyzed using thematic analysis to interpret the data patterns. Additionally, the researcher journaled her experiences throughout the research process to eliminate additional points of bias. From this approach, the following primary themes emerged: (a) the importance of personal connectedness, (b) the importance of personal applicability of information, (c) making good choices promotes good health, (d) the ability to ask questions, and (e) the preference of interactive education. These findings will ultimately allow her and other public health educators who serve rural populations to more effectively design their educational efforts.