Validation of the modified health assessment questionnaire in First Nations persons with rheumatoid arthritis
Background: Standardized outcome measures used in assessment of chronic disease need to be relevant to the client if interventions based on the results are to be meaningful. The Modified Health Assessment Questionnaire (MHAQ) (Pincus et al., 1983) is an eight-item questionnaire used commonly with individuals with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) to assess self-reported function. This scale has been translated and validated in multiple languages and cultures but has never been evaluated for its relevance with a Canadian Indigenous population despite its frequent application in clinical and health research settings. Purpose: The primary objective of the following study was to determine whether or not the MHAQ is an appropriate measurement tool to adequately document the lived experiences of activity and participation in First Nations individuals diagnosed with RA. Methodology: A mixed methods sequential explanatory approach was utilized. The quantitative component consisted of secondary analysis of an existing clinical database developed at the University of Manitoba Health Sciences Arthritis Centre (UMHSAC). MHAQ scores and other indicators of disease activity of First Nations (n=252) and Caucasian (n=633) individuals with RA were examined for significant differences. The results informed a qualitative phase using interpretive description methodology whereby semi-structured interviews were held with 25 First Nations individuals with RA. Results: A significant relationship was observed between ethnicity and MHAQ score (p<0.001) where the First Nations cohort demonstrated significantly higher scores in pain and MHAQ scores (p<0.001), as well as physician global assessment and morning stiffness (p<0.05). Pain was the single greatest predictor of MHAQ score (p<0.001). In contrast, a convergence coding matrix comparing MHAQ scores to first-hand narratives found only 65% agreement in responses. The thematic analysis of the qualitative component resulted in three key themes: Ka-wachi-wa-pinaywin (“Coldness in the bones”), Adaptive Resilience, and Family Relations. Conclusion: Concurrent validity of the MHAQ in a First Nations population was supported through statistical analyses but convergent validity was not supported by subsequent qualitative and mixed methods approaches. The assessment of disability requires an integrated approach that takes into consideration an individual’s personal context. Both barriers and facilitators in the environment, as well as personal factors, must be addressed.