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Cure or control: Complying with biomedical regime of diabetes in Cameroon

Lookup NU author(s): Paschal Awah, Professor Nigel Unwin, Professor Peter Phillimore



Background. The objective of the study was to explore the cultural aspect of compliance, its underlying principles and how these cultural aspects can be used to improve patient centred care for diabetes in Cameroon. Methods. We used participant observation to collect data from a rural and an urban health district of Cameroon from June 2001 to June 2003. Patients were studied in their natural settings through daily interactions with them. The analysis was inductive and a continuous process from the early stages of fieldwork. Results. The ethnography revealed a lack of basic knowledge about diabetes and diabetes risk factors amongst people with diabetes. The issue of compliance was identified as one of the main themes in the process of treating diabetes. Compliance emerged as part of the discourse of healthcare providers in clinics and filtered into the daily discourses of people with diabetes. The clinical encounters offered treatment packages that were socially inappropriate therefore rejected or modified for most of the time by people with diabetes. Compliance to biomedical therapy suffered a setback for four main reasons: dealing with competing regimes of treatment; coming to terms with biomedical treatment of diabetes; the cost of biomedical therapy; and the impact of AIDS on accepting weight loss as a lifestyle measure in prescription packages. People with diabetes had fears about and negative opinions of accepting certain prescriptions that they thought could interfere with their accustomed social image especially that which had to do with bridging their relationship with ancestors and losing weight in the era of HIV/AIDS. Conclusion. The cultural pressures on patients are responsible for patients' partial acceptance of and adherence to prescriptions. Understanding the self-image of patients and their background cultures are vital ingredients to improve diabetes care in low-income countries of Sub-Sahara Africa like Cameroon. © 2008 Awah et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Awah P, Unwin N, Phillimore PR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BMC Health Services Research

Year: 2008

Volume: 8

Print publication date: 01/01/2008

Date deposited: 19/02/2010

ISSN (print): 1472-6963

ISSN (electronic):


DOI: 10.1186/1472-6963-8-43


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