Coping Strategies of Newly Diagnosed Patients with Type Two Diabetes Mellitus at a Hospital in Ghana




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


Abstract Published research on diabetes in Ghana is quite limited and relates mainly to incidence and prevalence of the disease with little research on the patients experiences of coping with the diabetes. It is estimated that diabetes affects 6.3% of the Ghanaian population with type 2 diabetes accounting for 90-95% of all cases of diabetes. In Ghana, individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus are confronted with difficulties including the high cost of treatment of the condition, stigmatization, and interruptions to normal physiological processes. In addition, the patients experience, limited clinic accessibility, inadequate drug availability, inadequate numbers of trained staff, as well as limited availability of equipment needed for adequate care of the condition. The review of literature for this current thesis also showed that none of the studies on coping were undertaken in Ghana, but were conducted in the western world where socio-cultural factors are quite diverse from the Ghanaian situation. In the light of the challenges facing diabetic patients as well as the gap observed in literature, the study set out to explore the coping strategies of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus at a hospital in Ghana.

A hermeneutic phenomenological approach to qualitative research was utilized. Twenty seven (27) in-depth interviews carried out with newly diagnosed patients with type 2 diabetes, between August and October 2009 at a hospital in Ghana. Interviews were conducted in the local Ghanaian Twi language and English. Participants who could not speak English were interviewed in Twi language and later translated into English by the researcher. Data analysis used Creswell (1998) approach to qualitative data analysis, which provided a rich description of the essential structures of the phenomenon under study.

The study identified patients’ perceptions as to the causes of diabetes mellitus, the social meanings attributed to diabetes (with particular attention paid to the language by Ghanaian people to describe disease condition), and subsequently reactions and resolutions to diagnosis. Patients discussed treatment options, while at the same time remaining hopeful of finding a cure. All patients had a firm spiritual belief system that underpinned their understanding of the causation and treatment of their illness. This combined with various degrees of understanding and acceptance of western explanations of illness influenced the coping strategies employed by patients, which variously reported as positive, negative, and alternative strategies.

The study establishes a platform upon which health providers can develop educational programmes for diabetic patients in Ghana, which will address misconceptions about diabetes mellitus in Ghana and the importance of programmes of care, which take account of and build upon the cultural context of ‘being Ghanaian’. Diabetes, at least for Ghanaian patients is more than a biomedical disease. In this sense a biomedical framework in and of itself will not enable healthcare providers to effectively manage this chronic disease in the Ghanaian population, but through the inclusion of an understanding of their spiritual beliefs, healthcare providers can understand the realities of what it is like for Ghanaian diabetes patients to live with diabetes. It is argued that a stronger collaboration and integration between traditional healthcare systems and orthodox healthcare systems will provide the optimum opportunity to maximize patient care in Ghana. Future research should concentrate on better understanding how lay knowledge and health related attitudes, beliefs and behaviours are associated with diabetes in Ghana.



Newly Diagnosed Patients, Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, Coping Stratetegies



Research Institute