Background: Our study explored behavioral factors affecting what patients with type 2 diabetes do for self-care and why they do it. The findings were used to develop clinical recommendations to improve intervention strategies.
Methods: Interviewers, using open-ended questions, explored patients' own perceptions and assessments of self-care behaviors. The fifty-one subjects were self-identified Mexican Americans who had type 2 diabetes for at least 6 months, and had no major impairment as a result of this diabetes. Texts of patient interviews were analyzed by building and refining matrixes to display and compare central themes regarding treatment strategies and their contexts.
Results: All patients were trying to control their diabetes, but none of them followed recommendations completely. Instead, they adapted self-care behaviors to the exigencies of everyday life. Key factors influencing patients' treatment choices were: (1) the belief in the power of modern medicine; (2) the desire to act and feel "normal"; (3) the desire to avoid physical symptoms; and (4) limited economic resources.
Conclusions: As patients apply treatment recommendations in the context of their everyday lives, they continually must make many small decisions affecting self-care behavior. The specific contexts of patients' lives, including their economic, educational, and cultural circumstances, determine how the generalized principles of type 2 diabetes management are implemented. Clinical strategies must be responsive to these circumstances in order to enable patients to make appropriate decisions when adapting their self-care behaviors to their own situations.