July 21, 2008 / 8:25 PM / in 12 years

Cultural sensitivity may improve diabetes outcomes

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Culturally tailored diabetes education may help ethnic minorities with type 2 diabetes better control their blood sugar.

“There is some evidence suggesting culturally tailored health education can improve some clinical outcomes in the short-term,” co-author Dr. Yolanda Robles of Cardiff University the UK told Reuters Health. However, “further research is needed to assess long-term effects,” Robles said.

Language and cultural barriers may hinder the delivery of quality diabetes health education to ethnic minorities, yet education is a vital aspect of diabetes care, Robles and colleagues report in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews from The Cochrane Collaboration.

To assess the overall efficacy of culturally tailored diabetes education versus the “usual” care, the researchers combined findings from 11 published research articles that compared the two approaches among minority groups living in middle- or high-income countries. All of the 1,603 study participants were older than 16 years.

Despite the limited number of studies available for analysis, the investigators found “clinically significant improvements” in blood sugar control among patients educated in their mother tongue using culturally specific methods.

Patients in culturally tailored educational interventions also showed improved knowledge of diabetes and healthy lifestyles.

These improvements, which were evident after 3 and 6 months, strengthen the concept “that health education should be couched in a learner-centered manner” while respecting religion, and social and cultural values, Robles and colleagues note.

However, “there is still need to assess long-term effects of interventions,” Robles said.

Well-designed, multi-center trials should examine a range of health education interventions in multiple ethnic minorities to determine the long-term benefits to overall health and quality of life measures, and to assess which interventions work best in which context, the investigators conclude.

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