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Exploring the perceptions and behaviours of sub-Saharan Africans living in the UK in relation to type 2 diabetes : an ethnographic study

Onuorah, Love


Love Onuorah


Peter, 1957 Draper

Julie Santy-Tomlinson


Type 2 diabetes is a serious health problem for sub-Saharan African (SSA) immigrants in the UK, who experience worse outcomes than other ethnic groups. There is a paucity in literature on how SSAs living in the UK perceive and respond to diabetes. Consequently, their diabetes interventions may be based on research with other ethnic minority groups. These interventions may be ineffective due to the differences in sociocultural contexts.
The aim of this qualitative exploratory study was to understand perceptions and behaviours of SSA immigrants living in the UK in relation to type 2 diabetes and to highlight the impact of their cultural and socioeconomic context on their perceptions and behaviours. This knowledge may be useful to enhance their diabetes care.
An ethnographic approach involving six months of fieldwork in a SSA community in South East London. Focused data were generated from eleven participants through the use of in-depth observations of food purchasing, preparation and consumption, conversational interviews, and field notes. Data were analysed through the thematic analytical method.
The findings were elaborated under five themes: field relevance; dietary perceptions and behaviours; weight, exercise and self-care beliefs and practices; diabetes knowledge and meanings; and perceived cultural and socioeconomic reasons for the rising incidence of type 2 diabetes among SSAs in the UK.
The discussion is based on the framework of the Health Belief Model. Participants tended not to see themselves as susceptible to type 2 diabetes, and they also underestimated its severity. Whilst participants understood the benefits of lifestyle changes to prevent or slow the onset of type 2 diabetes, barriers to effective management were also high. This may negatively impact on adopting recommended lifestyle changes.
The cultural and socioeconomic contexts of SSAs living in the UK have significant influence on their diabetes beliefs and behaviours and should be considered in formulating targeted culturally sensitive interventions for their diabetes care.


Onuorah, L. (2020). Exploring the perceptions and behaviours of sub-Saharan Africans living in the UK in relation to type 2 diabetes : an ethnographic study. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jan 5, 2023
Publicly Available Date Feb 24, 2023
Keywords Nursing
Public URL
Additional Information School of Health and Social Work, The University of Hull
Award Date Aug 1, 2020


Thesis (12.5 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2020 Onuorah, Love. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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