Use of ethnographic methods for applied research on diabetes among the Ojibway-Cree in northern Ontario

Health Educ Q. 1996 Aug;23(3):365-82. doi: 10.1177/109019819602300307.


This article presents the results of applied ethnographic research aimed at developing a community-based diabetes prevention program in an isolated Ojibway-Cree community in northern Ontario. Using qualitative techniques, the authors describe diabetes in its sociocultural context and underlying belief systems that affect related activity and dietary behaviors. Local concepts of food and illness are dichotomized into "Indian" and "white man's" groupings, with Indian foods perceived as healthy and white man's foods felt to be unhealthy. Diabetes is believed to result from consumption of white man's "junk foods" (sugar, soda); some believe the disease can be avoided by eating traditional Indian foods such as game animals (moose, beaver, duck). While dietary linkages to diabetes are recognized, physical activity as a means of controlling obesity and decreasing the risk for diabetes is not part of the local ethnomedical model. This information is being used to develop culturally appropriate health education interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Health Education*
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / education*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Sciences / education
  • Ontario
  • Risk Factors