Challenges of diabetes management in immigrant Korean Americans

Diabetes Educ. 2013 Mar-Apr;39(2):213-21. doi: 10.1177/0145721713475846. Epub 2013 Feb 20.


Purpose: To examine challenges in diabetes self-management among Korean Americans to guide clinicians in providing culturally appropriate and population-targeted diabetes care.

Methods: Five focus groups with 23 Korean Americans with type 2 diabetes, 30 to 75 years of age, were conducted. Open-ended questions were presented focusing on previous experiences in living with diabetes; digital recordings were transcribed verbatim; transcripts were coded and themes were identified.

Results: Most participants were reluctant to disclose diabetes because of social stigma and said that they did not know much about diabetes and its complications. Diabetes self-management is not always a top priority for Korean Americans over other family obligations or financial stability in their busy immigration lives. Many Korean Americans experience conflicts with family members in managing diabetes or would not request support from family members for their diabetes care. Traditional women's roles and demanding immigration life seem to leave women particularly vulnerable to a lack of self-care. Lack of English proficiency limits access to mainstream health care.

Conclusions: Providing diabetes education at the community level is important to raise public awareness of diabetes and to eliminate social stigma. To facilitate family support for individuals with type 2 diabetes, it is appropriate to include the entire family in diabetes educational programs and to promote individual family members' health in the context of maintaining their role within the family. Future efforts should be made with full implementation of language services in various clinical encounters and diabetes education.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asian*
  • Culture
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / ethnology
  • Emigrants and Immigrants*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Perception
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self Care / psychology
  • Self Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Stigma
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology