Social support for self-care: Patient strategies for managing diabetes and hypertension in rural uganda

Andrew K. Tusubira, Christine K. Nalwadda, Ann R. Akiteng, Evelyn Hsieh, Christine Ngaruiya, Tracy L. Rabin, Anne Katahoire, Nicola L. Hawley, Robert Kalyesubula, Isaac Ssinabulya, Jeremy I. Schwartz, Mari Armstrong-Hough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Low-income countries suffer a growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Self-care practices are crucial for successfully managing NCDs to prevent complications. However, little is known about how patients practice self-care in resource-limited settings. Objective: We sought to understand self-care efforts and their facilitators among patients with diabetes and hypertension in rural Uganda. Methods: Between April and June 2019, we conducted a cross-sectional qualitative study among adult patients from outpatient NCD clinics at three health facilities in Uganda. We conducted in-depth interviews exploring self-care practices for hypertension and/or diabetes and used content analysis to identify emergent themes. Results: Nineteen patients participated. Patients said they preferred conventional medicines as their first resort, but often used traditional medicines to mitigate the impact of inconsistent access to prescribed medicines or as a supplement to those medicines. Patients adopted a wide range of vernacular practices to supplement treatment or replace unavailable diagnostic tests, such as tasting urine to gauge blood-sugar level. Finally, patients sought and received both instrumental and emotional support for self-care activities from networks of family and peers. Patients saw their children as their most reliable source of support facilitating self-care, especially as a source of money for medicines, transport and home necessities. Conclusion: Patients valued conventional medicines but engaged in varied self-care practices. They depended upon networks of social support from family and peers to facilitate self-care. Interventions to improve self-care may be more effective if they improve access to prescribed medicines and engage or enhance patients’ social support networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of Global Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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