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Diabetes literacy and informal social support: a qualitative study of patients at a diabetes centre


  • Stephen Black
  • Catherine Maitland
  • Julieanne Hilbers
  • Kirsty Orinuela


Aims and objectives To explore the resources that patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes drew upon to manage the disease in their daily lives. Background Type 2 diabetes is a disease affecting Australian adults at a rate described as an ‘epidemic’. Treatment usually focuses on patient self‐management, which may require daily blood sugar monitoring, oral medications or injectable therapies, and regulating diet and exercise. Health research studies of patient self‐management, including those involving type 2 diabetes, have focused largely on individual‐centred definitions, though a number of studies, in particular qualitative studies, have indicated the positive role of social relationships and informal social networks. Design Exploratory, qualitative. Methods The project focused on 26 patients attending a diabetes centre for clinical consultations with centre staff including doctors, diabetes educators, podiatrists and dietitians. The consultations were observed and audio recorded, followed by semi‐structured, audio‐recorded interviews with the patients and separate interviews with the consulting professional staff. Results Overwhelmingly the patients drew on informal social networks of support to manage the disease. Spouses were significant, sometimes presenting with the patient as a ‘team’ approach to managing the disease. Sons and daughters also played a significant support role, especially interpreting during consultations and explaining health information. In some cases neighbours and also local community organisations provided informal support. Only two patients claimed not to use informal social support. Conclusions Informal social support in patients’ self‐management of type 2 diabetes was found to be an important factor to be considered by clinicians. The study suggested the need for a more deliberate or pro‐active policy to involve patients’ family and other informal social networks in treatment programs. Relevance to clinical practice Clinicians may need document and incorporate informal social support in the development and implementation of patient management plans.

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  • Stephen Black & Catherine Maitland & Julieanne Hilbers & Kirsty Orinuela, 2017. "Diabetes literacy and informal social support: a qualitative study of patients at a diabetes centre," Journal of Clinical Nursing, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 26(1-2), pages 248-257, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jocnur:v:26:y:2017:i:1-2:p:248-257
    DOI: 10.1111/jocn.13383

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Chinn, Deborah, 2011. "Critical health literacy: A review and critical analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 60-67, July.
    2. Meyler, Deanna & Stimpson, Jim P. & Peek, M. Kristen, 2007. "Health concordance within couples: A systematic review," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(11), pages 2297-2310, June.
    3. Nutbeam, Don, 2008. "The evolving concept of health literacy," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(12), pages 2072-2078, December.
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