Cultural and Family Challenges to Managing Type 2 Diabetes in Immigrant Chinese Americans

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OBJECTIVE— Although Asians demonstrate elevated levels of type 2 diabetes, little attention has been directed to their unique cultural beliefs and practices regarding diabetes. We describe cultural and family challenges to illness management in foreign-born Chinese American patients with type 2 diabetes and their spouses.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS— This was an interpretive comparative interview study with 20 foreign-born Chinese American couples (n = 40) living with type 2 diabetes. Multiple (six to seven) semistructured interviews with each couple in individual, group, and couple settings elicited beliefs about diabetes and narratives of care within the family and community. Interpretive narrative and thematic analysis were completed. A separate respondent group of 19 patients and spouses who met the

RESULTS— Cultural and family challenges to diabetes management within foreign-born Chinese American families included how 1) diabetes symptoms challenged family harmony, 2) dietary prescriptions challenged food beliefs and practices, and 3) disease management requirements challenged established family role responsibilities.

CONCLUSIONS— Culturally nuanced care with immigrant Chinese Americans requires attentiveness to the social context of disease management. Patients’ and families’ disease management decisions are seldom made independent of their concerns for family well-being, family face, and the reciprocal responsibilities required by varied family roles. Framing disease recommendations to include cultural concerns for balance and significant food rituals are warranted.


© 2009 by the American Diabetes Association. Readers may use this article as long as the work is properly cited, the use is educational and not for profit, and the work is not altered. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ for details.



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