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J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2014 Nov;8(6):1185-92. doi: 10.1177/1932296814549829. Epub 2014 Sep 10.

The comparative experiences of women in control: diabetes self-management education in a virtual world.

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Boston University School of Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, Boston, MA, USA
Boston University School of Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, Boston, MA, USA.
University of Massachusetts Medical School, Division of Preventative and Behavioral Medicine, Worcester, MA, USA.


The purpose was to characterize participants' experiences of a diabetes self-management (DSM) education program delivered via a virtual world (VW) versus a face-to-face (F2F) format. Participants included a randomly selected sample of participants who completed the Women in Control study. Four focus groups were conducted with 32 participants. Four researchers coded the data and conducted a qualitative thematic analysis. Four overarching themes were identified. Three domains apply to both VW and F2F formats, including (1) the value of DSM knowledge gained, (2) cultivating DSM attitudes and skills, and (3) the value of peer-derived social support. The fourth domain is labeled positive technological development for DSM (VW condition only). VW and F2F groups both reported mastery of DSM knowledge, attitudes, and skills, and there were no differences in peer-derived social support between groups. The technological aspects of VW participation afforded VW participants a unique sense of personal agency and diabetes self-efficacy not reported by F2F participants. DSM education in a VW is feasible and educational outcomes are similar to a F2F classroom experience. Furthermore, learning DSM skills in a VW offers unique advantages in supporting personal agency for health behavior change. Further research is warranted.


African Americans; Type 2 diabetes; health behavior; health disparities; minority health; self-efficacy; virtual systems

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