Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore individual, educational, and system barriers that limit low-income diabetes patients' ability to achieve optimal diabetes self-management.
Methods: Economically disadvantaged patients with diabetes who used the Diabetes Clinic of Grady Health System in Atlanta, Georgia, participated in 3 focus group discussions.
Results: The discussions were held with mostly African Americans (n = 35) to explore barriers to achieving optimal diabetes self-management. Most participants were not married, approximately one-third had less than high school level reading skills, and 40% were not currently working. In terms of individual barriers, the emotional toll from the diagnosis of and lifestyle changes to treat diabetes was a recurrent theme, and included stress, frustration, social isolation, interpersonal conflicts, depression, and fear. Denial was often mentioned as the key factor that inhibited adherence to a healthy mode of living. The educational barriers were failure to recognize the risks and consequences of an asymptomatic condition. Many participants did not understand A1C. Finally, several system barriers were identified. The participants identified needed services, including follow-up and refresher courses, support group discussions, nutrition and medication education, availability of different education modalities, and expanded clinic hours.
Conclusions: The focus group discussions identified both barriers to diabetes management and opportunities for improving care for underserved patients with diabetes. The results are useful to improve the delivery of care and to develop quantitative studies to explore particular areas of interest. Based on these results, the current system needs to provide more support and education to patients with diabetes.