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Patient education should be tailored for those at risk of diabetes

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It is “important” for nurses to personalise diabetes-related education, management, and support to the specific needs and vulnerabilities of at-risk patients, according to researchers.

The warning follows their finding that patient perceptions, misperceptions and knowledge gaps about type 2 diabetes were linked to specific factors.

The researchers, from New York University College of Nursing, looked at 372 adult patients deemed at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

“It is important for diabetes educators to recognise that these differences exist and to incorporate these differences in their patient education”

Shiela Strauss

They assessed each patient’s general diabetes knowledge and measured eight specific perceptions among the sample. They then looked for differences among the eight perception areas according to the presence or absence of diabetes risk factors.

Compared to those who had a first-degree relative with diabetes, patients who did not were less concerned that they might have diabetes, reported a poorer understanding of the disease, and were less emotionally affected by the possibility of diagnosis.

The study also found that individuals with a body mass index of 25 kg/m2 or more believed that diabetes would have a greater effect on their lives if they developed it, and demonstrated a greater understanding of diabetes when compared to those with a lower BMI.

Meanwhile, black and minority ethnic patients with an increased racial risk of diabetes, believed that diabetes would endure for less time and that they would have more control over it, compared to other patients.

“We found that there are differences in the perceptions of those who are at risk for diabetes that depend on the specific characteristics that place them at risk,” said lead author and associate professor of nursing Dr Shiela Strauss.

She noted that the way that people mentally viewed their condition had an effect on the way they managed it and therefore on their prognoses.

She said the findings may be influential in designing care to fit patients on a case-by-case basis, saying: “tailoring diabetes education and outreach to an individual’s perceptions of diabetes can maximize self-care behaviours, and reduce adverse outcomes”.

The study findings also indicated that some diabetes perceptions among those at risk of developing the condition may be different from those with diagnosed diabetes, added Dr Strauss.

“It is important for diabetes educators to recognise that these differences exist and to incorporate these differences in their patient education,” she said. “It’s not one size fits all.”

The study findings have been published in the journal The Diabetes Educator.

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