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“You cannot cure it, just control it”: Jamaican Adolescents Living with Diabetes

“You cannot cure it, just control it”: Jamaican Adolescents Living with Diabetes

Dr. Moji Anderson & Prof. Marshall Tulloch Reid
Faculty of Social Sciences
Sociology, Psychology & Social Work
Pharmaceuticals, Nutraceuticals, Health and Well-Being

Although adolescence is a difficult time for diabetes management, there is little published qualitative research on adolescent Jamaicans with diabetes. This study investigates the experiences of Jamaican adolescents with diabetes to determine how to address their needs.

Nineteen adolescents participated in four focus groups and drew pictures representing their experiences. Thematic analysis was used to analyse their narratives; their drawings were analysed by adapting Lauritsen and Mathiasen’s (2003) method.


Control was the main theme: children felt controlled by diabetes and the people in their lives. Diabetes restricted activities and made them feel different. Others' support could be helpful and constricting. Children resisted control by ignoring rules, being secretive, defiant, and manipulating others into allowing nonadherence. They also tried to follow the rules, balance adherence with enjoying themselves, and to be positive.

The most positive children did not feel controlled by diabetes or others’ understandings of it and, with loved ones’ support, rejected diabetes’ negative meanings. Some rural children felt severe distress.


Healthcare practitioners and policymakers should provide education in schools to encouragefair, effective treatment. Mental health specialists should help them deal withstigma and distress. Group sessions with family and friendsare important for developing collaborative decisions on support.

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