Health care providers' perspectives on challenges and opportunities of intercultural health care in diabetes and obesity management: a qualitative study

CMAJ Open. 2023 Aug 22;11(4):E765-E773. doi: 10.9778/cmajo.20220222. Print 2023 Jul-Aug.


Background: Migrants often face worse health outcomes in countries of transit and destination because of challenges such as financial constraints, employment problems, lack of a network of social support, language and cultural differences, and difficulties accessing health services. As understanding how the migrant context affects patient-provider engagement is critical to the provision of contextually appropriate care, this study aimed at understanding primary health care provider perspectives on challenges and opportunities of the intercultural care process for migrant patients with diabetes and obesity.

Methods: This qualitative study within a multimethod, participatory research project involved primary care providers in clinics and primary care networks in Edmonton, Alberta, between September 2019 and February 2020. We explored health care providers' approaches to diabetes and obesity management, and experiences of and challenges with intercultural care. We conducted a thematic analysis using an interpretive qualitative approach.

Results: We conducted 9 interviews and 4 focus groups and identified 3 themes: a shift from traditional weight loss-centred approaches; relationships and navigating cultural distance; and importance of and limitations in identifying and addressing root causes and barriers. Health care providers encounter considerable nonmedical challenges when supporting immigrant patients, such as navigating cultural distance and working with patients' financial constraints.

Interpretation: The nonmedical challenges we identified can hinder the process of chronic disease management. Thus, in addition to educational programs and trainings to enhance the cultural competency of health care providers, incorporating avenues for cultural brokering in health care can provide invaluable support in patient-provider engagements to mitigate these challenges.