Kathy Moscou, Public Health & Community Medicine: Health Services- International Health Program, University of Washington, 309- 32nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98122, 206-322-7020, firstname.lastname@example.org
In South Africa, chronic diseases are the principal cause of morbidity and mortality. Chronic disease surpasses all communicable disease and accidents accounts for a significant burden across all nine provinces. The most prevalent chronic diseases are diabetes, hypertension, HIV/AIDS and asthma. Lifestyle factors contribute to increased risk for chronic disease across all socio-economic strata.
Qualitative research methods were employed in this exploratory, descriptive study and evaluation of existing support groups for persons with chronic disease to identify a range of programs and practices designed to facilitate life-style modifications necessary for improved health. Data were collected from support group organizers, members, and institutional support providers. The study was undertaken at the request of the Provincial Government of the Western Cape Health Department, South Africa. Currently, guidelines for program development, planning, and evaluation do not exist, thus, analyzing the benefits of support groups is less than optimal.
Key findings showed: support groups for chronic disease create a participatory and empowering environment. A discordant view currently exists between the perceived role for support groups in facilitating change, by group members and those providing institutional support to these groups. Support groups in Black townships have access to the fewest resources and require greatest institutional support yet institutional apathy and local political rivalry represent barriers to sustaining support groups. A comprehensive approach that includes environmental interventions is suggested rather than focus on individual-level behavioral change. More research is needed to evaluate whether support group participation has a statistically significant impact in improving health.
Presenting author's disclosure statement:
The 134th Annual Meeting & Exposition (November 4-8, 2006) of APHA