'A Rich Man's Sickness': A Critical Hermeneutic Study on What It Is Like To Live with Diabetes in Liberia

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Authors
Bleah, Paulina
Keyword
Diabetes , Photovoice , Critical Hermeneutics , Lived Experiences , Liberia
Abstract
Diabetes is a growing public health concern in Liberia, where an estimated 2.1% of its population of 5.2 million people are living with the disease. The challenges with diabetes in Liberia are enormous. Diabetes places immense socioeconomic pressure on individuals and their families and burdens an already overstretched health care system, still recovering from the destructive effects of the 14-year Liberian civil war (1989 – 1996 and 1999 – 2003) and the West African Ebola virus epidemic (2014 – 2016). While efforts towards rebuilding the Liberian health care system are ongoing, people with diabetes experience significant challenges with access to social and health resources to manage their illness. As such, the aim of this critical hermeneutic study was to explore what it is like to live with diabetes in Liberia. I recruited 10 participants from a publicly funded hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, to partake in this study. Photovoice, a well-established participatory data collection approach, was used to gather images and stories that represented participants’ daily experiences of living with diabetes. The themes uncovered highlight the assets, needs, and opportunities related to diabetes management and care in Liberia; assets – participants shared support from family, their church community, and their religious beliefs helped them cope with and manage diabetes; needs – participants voiced challenges with accessing healthy foods, diabetes medications and supplies, and diabetes-related health services; and opportunities – participants advocated for local governments and policy makers to prioritize diabetes on national health agendas and support programs and initiatives (i.e., diabetes centres) to improve care and outcomes for people living with diabetes in Liberia. The findings from this study provide a clearer picture of the impact of diabetes on individuals, families, and communities in Liberia. The experiences of people living with diabetes in Liberia are under-researched. Therefore, this timely research provides an opportunity for local governments and international partners to enact key recommendations for the purposes of improving health outcomes and quality of life for people living with diabetes in Liberia.
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