How diet modification challenges are magnified in vulnerable or marginalized people with diabetes and heart disease: a systematic review and qualitative meta-synthesis.
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BACKGROUND: Diet modification is an important part of self-management for patients with diabetes and/or heart disease (including coronary artery disease, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation). Many health care providers and community-based programs advise lifestyle and diet modification as part of care for people with these conditions. This report synthesizes qualitative information on how patients respond differently to the challenges of diet modification. Qualitative and descriptive evidence can illuminate challenges that may affect the success and equitable impact of dietary modification interventions. OBJECTIVES: To (a) examine the diet modification challenges faced by diabetes and/or heart disease patients; and (b) compare and contrast the challenges faced by patients who are members of vulnerable and nonvulnerable groups as they change their diet in response to clinical recommendations. DATA SOURCES: This report synthesizes 65 primary qualitative studies on the topic of dietary modification challenges encountered by patients with diabetes and/or heart disease. Included papers were published between 2002 and 2012 and studied adult patients in North America, Europe, and Australia/New Zealand. REVIEW METHODS: Qualitative meta-synthesis was used to integrate findings across primary research studies. RESULTS: Analysis identified 5 types of challenges that are common to both vulnerable and nonvulnerable patients: self-discipline, knowledge, coping with everyday stress, negotiating with family members, and managing the social significance of food. Vulnerable patients may experience additional barriers, many of which can magnify or exacerbate those common challenges. LIMITATIONS: While qualitative insights are robust and often enlightening for understanding experiences and planning services in other settings, they are not intended to be generalizable. The findings of the studies reviewed here--and of this synthesis--do not strictly generalize to the Ontario (or any specific) population. This evidence must be interpreted and applied carefully, in light of expertise and the experiences of the relevant community. CONCLUSIONS: Diet modification is not simply a matter of knowing what to eat and making the rational choice to change dietary practices. Rather, diet and eating practices should be considered as part of the situated lives of patients, requiring an individualized approach that is responsive to the conditions in which each patient is attempting to make a change. Common challenges include self-discipline, knowledge, coping with everyday stress, negotiating with family members, and managing the social significance of food. An individualized approach is particularly important when working with patients who have vulnerabilities. PLAIN LANGUAGE SUMMARY: Health care providers often encourage people with diabetes and/or heart disease to change their diet. They advise people with diabetes to eat less sugar, starch, and fat. They advise people with heart disease to eat less fat and salt. However, many patients find it difficult to change what they eat. This report examines the challenges people may face when making such changes. It also examines the special challenges faced by people who are vulnerable due to other factors, such as poverty, lack of education, and difficulty speaking English. Five themes were common to all people who make diet changes: self-discipline, knowledge, coping with stress, negotiating with family members, and managing the social aspect of food. Members of vulnerable groups also reported other challenges, such as affording fresh fruit and vegetables or understanding English instructions. This report may help health care providers work with patients more effectively to make diet changes.
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