Although Caribbean Latinos are two to three times more likely than non-Hispanic whites to develop diabetes, cultural influences on nutrition and health are poorly understood. To provide insight into important features of diabetes prevention and management, we conducted focus groups to explore nutrition practices and health beliefs.


Thirty low-income urban Caribbean Latinos with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) and four familymembers participated in four focus group interviews that were conducted in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Interviews were conducted in Spanish, were tape recorded, and were led and analyzed by Latino professionals from a community-based health organization.


Consistent themes described by participants were feelings of social isolation, little understanding of long-term consequences of diabetes, fatalism regarding the course of the disease, multiple barriers todiet and exercise interventions, skepticism regarding the value of preventive health behaviors, prevalent use of traditional nonmedicai remedies, and a clear need for culturally sensitive health-care providers and services.


The information from focus groups provides useful information for planning innovative intervention programs for chronic disease risk reduction that emphasize practical skills development, family/peer networks, empowerment techniques, and bilingual providers. We conclude that the focus group technique can be used effectively with low-income, urban minority populations to provide information on lifestyle behaviors and beliefs regarding chronic diseases that impact on health and nutritional status.

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