Objective: To explore the way Thai patients perceive and manage their diabetes.
Research design and methods: Using a focused ethnographic approach, face-to-face interviews were conducted at two public hospitals in Bangkok. All interviews (n=27) were audio-taped and transcribed verbatim. Analysis of the interview transcripts was completed thematically.
Results: The findings showed that Thai patients manage their diabetes according to their beliefs about diabetes. These beliefs are constructed using both modern and traditional knowledge. For example, some patients explained the cause of their illness as being due to biomedical factors such as genetics, and also cultural factors such as karma from either previous or current lifetimes. The analysis also revealed that some aspects of Thai life facilitate diabetes self-management while other aspects hamper good control of the illness. For example, Buddhist values of moderation contribute positively to dietary change, while, on the other hand, the importance of rice in the Thai diet can impede successful self-management strategies.
Conclusion: The results of this research indicate that Thai culture influences diabetes perceptions and management. Culturally appropriate treatment guidelines should be established for diabetes management that give special consideration to the significance and meaning of food and to Buddhist beliefs.