Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Joy Goldsmith

Committee Member

Gray Matthews

Committee Member

David Goodman

Committee Member

Marian Levy


Abstract This dissertation is an ethnographic study that examines the health beliefs of persons experiencing homelessness in Mid-town Memphis. It considers participants' social practices and environmental circumstances and analyzes how the global pandemic may have informed their health beliefs. Social determinants such as neighborhood safety, unemployment, racism, and transportation exacerbate issues of absenteeism, poor dietary/health-related habits, and further mistrust in health systems and public aid. Low “compliance,” a term used in health care to describe patient behaviors of non-adherence to prescribed medical treatments, is problematic in its connotation of intent or deliberateness without consideration of socioeconomics and other sociocultural matters. Therefore, the term is used in this text interchangeably with “non-adherence” with reluctance and with the understanding that such industry terminology does not account for health beliefs, psychosocial, or cultural factors. Moreover, the terms are restrictive and are at odds with the notions of health beliefs and the narrative paradigm. Nonetheless, non-compliance highlights issues of health literacy, which may also complicate matters of patient adherence and the production of socially constructed health beliefs. Vulnerable populations, such as persons experiencing homelessness, have long suffered from the systems that exclude them from society and almost entirely from the scientific literature that may shed light on the barriers they experience daily and pathways that might affect policy change to improve their health and wellness. By Privileging the voices and experiences of persons affected by homelessness, this study seeks to identify social and structural barriers impacting the health of this population group and make their struggles visible to policymakers, health promoters, and the lay public. Secondly, this community-based participatory action research invites participants to discuss pathways to impact health equity and become potential catalysts for social change. The participants are the recorders, collectors, and tellers of stories expressing their needs to inform systemic or policy change. The study data was collected over eighteen months post- COVID-19 lock-down. This ethnomethodological study demonstrates that the cohort's mixed sociocultural, socioeconomic, and psychohistories affect individual and communal health beliefs. The narratives serve as the primary data and basis for answering questions about the formulation, exchange, and communication of health beliefs and behaviors as they may be affected by socio-environmental conditions.


Data is provided by the student

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest.


Open Access