Optimising the effectiveness of diabetes education in an East Asian population

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Aim: To explore the collective patterns of learning behaviours and preferences of Chinese people during diabetes education. The study was carried out across three countries and aimed to identify strategies that could be used to tailor diabetes education to Chinese people. Methods: A case study approach was undertaken in three countries (Australia, China and Singapore) using participant observations and qualitative interviews. Purposive sampling was used to select field sites before a snowball technique was employed to identify relevant interviewees. Thematic analysis with pattern matching was used for data analysis. Results: A total of 39 participant observations and 22 interviews were conducted. Chinese people with diabetes were observed seeking advice and recommendations from health professionals. When told clearly what to do, they strived for full compliance. They tended to be submissive during diabetes education and were not likely to raise concerns, negotiate or participate in making medical decisions. They appeared to prefer prescriptive concrete instructions rather than more flexible conceptual education and to believe that behavioural change should be achieved by individual willpower and determination, resulting in an ‘all-or-nothing’ approach. Regular repeated information sessions were reported to establish rapport and trust. Conclusions: For diabetes education to be culturally modified for Chinese people, there is a need to consider their unique philosophies and behaviours during education to support lifestyle changes. Building trust from the early stages of education was achieved by encouraging rapport through the provision of clear and precise instructions. This should be done before engaging in an open discussion of implementation strategies. Once the trust is built, healthy behaviour change may follow.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-260
Number of pages8
JournalNutrition and Dietetics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


  • education
  • migrant/refugee health
  • qualitative research
  • type 2 diabetes

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