We revealed how attitudes to Type 2 Diabetes among South Asian communities are dominated by fatalistic myths and cultural norms – to the extent that many South Asians now perceive Type 2 diabetes as an inevitability. By building this understanding from within the local community, we equipped Bromley Healthcare with the rapport and local partnerships needed to effect meaningful change.
Conscious of the disproportionately high levels of Type 2 diabetes among South Asians in Thornton Heath, local healthcare professionals needed new ways to encourage preventative behaviour and self-management.
We revealed how cultural and religious obligations, like cooking for guests and fasting, posed barriers to lifestyle and behaviour change that were compounded by women’s strong sense of their roles and responsibilities.
We also discovered how confusion and distrust towards healthcare advice and medication were altering attitudes towards prevention and self-management – a trend not helped by a widespread belief that South Asian people are more predisposed to Type 2 diabetes than is actually the case.
The upshot was that ‘Type 2’ had become so normalised among the community as to be seen as almost inevitable.
But although our work identified deep-seated challenges, it also demonstrated the capacity for change. Many of the cultural barriers we identified had positive flipsides – chiefly, the strong sense of identity in local South Asian communities, coupled with high levels of engagement and trust in informal community assets and religious leaders.
By using the project to build a bridge between professionals and communities, we gave stakeholders a clear platform for harnessing the strength and cohesion of existing initiatives, networks and assets – working with community and religious leaders to deliver more influential messaging around health-related topics.