The 130th Annual Meeting of APHA

4051.0: Tuesday, November 12, 2002 - Board 1

Abstract #40695

"We didn't have it in Ethiopia": Attitudes and beliefs of Ethiopian immigrants to Israel regarding diabetes

Nurit Guttman, PhD, Department of Communication, Tel-Aviv University, P. O. Box 39040, Tel-Aviv, Tel-Aviv, 69978, Israel, 972-3-640-9010, and Anat Jaffe, MD, Endocrine and Diabetes Unit, Hillel Yaffe Medical Center, Hillel Yaffe Medical Center, Hadera, Israel.

Background: Early detection and effective management of diabetes in the Israeli Ethiopian community require in-depth appreciation of its beliefs and traditions. Recent findings indicate that within a decade, this population acquired a relatively high prevalence of diabetes (10 to 17%), which was literally unknown to it prior to immigration. This study investigated beliefs and attitudes of Ethiopian immigrants to enable a better understanding of their conceptions of diabetes and help develop culturally appropriate prevention and treatment programs. Methods: A sample of 179 face-to-face interviews, randomly selected from Hadera residents were conducted in Amharic at respondents' homes. Questionnaire items included awareness, detection and treatment of diabetes, whether it is perceived as limiting participation in social affairs or employment, and attitudes towards turning to traditional healers. Closed-ended items were scaled on a 4-point Likert scale, pre-tested in a pilot. Interviews with key informants and five group interviews with community residents were conducted at an outpatient diabetes clinic. Results: Almost a third of respondents said they were not familiar with diabetes, and most of those who did (71%), heard about it only after immigration. Approximately half did not know anyone with diabetes. Nearly half felt diabetes was a "difficult" or "very difficult" illness, but most could not explain why. 13% felt individuals with diabetes typically needed to stop working. Diabetes does not appear to have a social stigma since most respondents said people did not keep it as a secret, though a considerable minority (19%) believed it was. Statistically significant differences were mainly found in knowledge regarding nutrition between individuals who knew they had diabetes and others, but even among individuals with diabetes, knowledge was limited. Most did not know anyone who was 'managing well' their diabetes. More women heard about diabetes or knew someone with diabetes. Traditional healers are highly respected, but for diabetes people would use western medicine. For many, the notion of chronic illness and its management is not part of their cultural vocabulary and they do not view physical activity and weight gain as related to health. Conclusions: Diabetes is a new phenomenon in the lives of the Ethiopian immigrants to Israel and culturally appropriate interventions are needed. These can be conducted in community settings since diabetes is not considered a 'taboo' topic, but it may be difficult to use positive role models. Healthcare providers need to become more familiar and sensitive to the Ethiopians' beliefs and customs.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Culture, Diabetes

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Medical Care Section Poster Session #1

The 130th Annual Meeting of APHA