February 7, 2013

Resources, Roadblocks and Turning Points: A Qualitative Study of American Indian/Alaska Native Adults with Type 2 Diabetes

Jennifer L. Shaw, Jennifer Brown, Burhan Khan, Marjorie K. Mau, Denise Dillard

Journal of Community Health

Type 2 diabetes is a worldwide health problem that has reached epidemic proportions in some communities. Alaska Native and American Indian (AN/AI) people are disproportionately diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and incidence is increasing in many Alaska communities. Developing effective interventions requires understanding the social and psychological factors that impact effective management of diabetes, yet little is known about these factors in AN/AI communities. The objective of this study was to explore perceived psychosocial needs and barriers to management of diabetes among AN/AI adults with type 2 diabetes receiving care at the Alaska Native Primary Care Center (ANPCC) to inform programmatic efforts and potential future research. We conducted three focus groups and five interviews with 13 AN/AI adults with type 2 diabetes. Interview and focus group questions elicited perceived factors that affect management of diabetes, with a focus on the psychological, social and spiritual impacts of diabetes. Data were transcribed, coded and analyzed using thematic analysis. Key themes that emerged from these data included resources and roadblocks, as well as turning points in the trajectory of diabetes. Resources are factors with a perceived positive impact on management of diabetes, including: (1) knowledge and education about diabetes, (2) social support from other people with diabetes, (3) spirituality, and (4) self-efficacy. Roadblocks are factors with a perceived negative impact on management of diabetes and include: (1) self-reported lack of knowledge about nutrition and diet, (2) social difficulties caused by dietary restrictions, and (3) co-morbid medical conditions. Finally, turning points are experiences described by participants as having transformed roadblocks in resources and thus facilitating improvement in the management of diabetes. Future programmatic interventions to improve management of diabetes with this population should focus on improving dietary education and social support opportunities for newly-diagnosed individuals. Also, educational and support opportunities for family members and friends of individuals with diabetes should also be offered to facilitate understanding and support of their loved ones’ management of diabetes, especially with regard to dietary restrictions in social settings. Efforts should also focus on strengthening newly-diagnosed individuals’ self-efficacy and providing ongoing support as individuals progressively adjust to the illness over time and make behavioral changes. Future research with this population should explore the effects of family support groups and the possibility of Web-based or other alternative interventions for improving psychosocial health and management of diabetes efforts.

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