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Chronic Illn. 2013 Jun;9(2):145-55. doi: 10.1177/1742395313475674. Epub 2013 Apr 12.

Diabetes self-management in a low-income population: impacts of social support and relationships with the health care system.

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  • 1Primary Care Research Institute, Department of Family Medicine, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 14203, USA.



This article reports on results of a qualitative study of social supports and institutional resources utilized by individuals living with diabetes in a high-poverty urban setting. The goal was to examine how access to social capital among low-income populations facilitates and impedes their self-efficacy in diabetes self-management.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 34 patients with diabetes from a safety net primary care practice in Buffalo, New York.


Facilitators and barriers to successful self-management were identified in three broad areas: (1) the influence of social support networks; (2) the nature of the doctor-patient relationship; and (3) the nature of patient-health care system relationship. Patients' unmet needs were also highlighted across these three areas.


Participants identified barriers to effective diabetes self-management directly related to their low-income status, such as inadequate insurance, and mistrust of the medical system. It may be necessary for patients to activate social capital from multiple social spheres to achieve the most effective diabetes management.


Diabetes; low-income populations; qualitative; self-management; social capital

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