Poor management of type 2 diabetes among South Asian people could be improved with better education about the condition following a recent study that revealed poor health outcomes.

Researchers from The University of Manchester in collaboration with Keele and Southampton Universities collected interviews with South Asian people with type 2 diabetes and showed that, especially among first generation immigrants, treatment beliefs could prevent effective management of the condition

The findings were recently published in the "Illness beliefs and the sociocultural context of diabetes self-management in British South Asians: a mixed methods study", report in the journal BMC Family Practice.

The South Asian population in the UK has a higher rate of type 2 diabetes and poorer health outcomes from treatment than the general population. Previous studies looking into why this may be have not focused on the role of social networks or assessed beliefs about diabetes to explore self-management behaviours in this population.

Dr Neesha Patel

Dr Neesha Patel, the health psychologist who led the study, said: "Many of the people we interviewed have conflicting views about the causes of their diabetes which seems to have an impact on how they manage it. Some believe that the state of their health is out of their control, and also have limited knowledge of diabetes being related to genetics and lifestyles factors."

The study also revealed the strengths of family networks in supporting people to manage type 2 diabetes. Many people without a good command of English were helped by their children to research their condition online and in other households where women took a prime role in shopping and cooking, diet was carefully managed.

However, incorrect information about the value of herbal remedies and types of food to eat was also spread around these networks.

Dr Patel added: "This study explored peoples’ personal beliefs about diabetes and the support received from other people to manage diabetes, which are often overlooked when producing culturally specific treatment plans and information."

"By examining the wider context as a whole and studying the role this plays in the management of diabetes, we recommend that these factors should be considered in routine diabetes care."

"Education guidelines also need to be developed for health care practitioners on how to account for cultural health beliefs in consultation in order to identify barriers to diabetes management."

"By getting this right, health services can go some way to addressing the inequality of diagnosis and the difficulties with self-management which South Asians with diabetes currently experience."

The research was funded by The Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC), which aims to improve the health of people in Greater Manchester and beyond through carrying out research and putting it into practice.

The South Asian Health Foundation promote good health for people with diabetes. Visit their website here.
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