Opportunities and Risks for Holistic Diabetes Prevention Related to Language Barriers

Nowadays, diabetes has become an epidemic. According to the World Health Organization, more than 422 million people worldwide are suffering from diabetes, and more than 8% of adults over 18 years old have this disease (par. 1-2). That is why the prevention of diabetes requires a multidisciplinary approach that is based on both physiological and psychosocial aspects of human health. One of the approaches toward diabetes prevention is a holistic strategy. Changes in lifestyle and technologies that are used in the field of medicine, together with the trend toward globalization of the medical arena, have greatly affected the perception of disease prevention. However, what remains unchanged is the existence of language barriers that aggravate the severity of the problem.

This article aims at investigating opportunities and risks involved in holistic diabetes prevention. The primary emphasis will be focused on studying the linguistic aspect of the problem, along with social initiatives that might become a foundation for future breakthroughs in lifting language barriers affecting the sphere of holistic diabetes prevention.

Opportunities for Holistic Diabetes Prevention

There are numerous opportunities for holistic diabetes prevention when considering language barriers. Because the idea of a holistic approach refers to going beyond conventional medical care and focusing on the patient, filling the linguistic gap is one way to promote it. This section will investigate a number of opportunities to create bilingual and multilingual environments for holistic learning in areas characterized by a mix of different ethnic and language minorities; using formal language for teaching how to prevent diabetes, especially when educational programs are based in healthcare units; initiating various social projects; and distributing culture-specific print materials.

Bilingual and Multilingual Environment

Because diabetes is an overall health concern, it is imperative to guarantee that all people, regardless of ethnic and linguistic background, have equal access to the knowledge of preventative measures. Creating bilingual and multilingual environments in healthcare units and launching educational programs offer a significant opportunity for holistic diabetes prevention. The primary idea is to identify the presence of ethnic minorities, identify the severity of the language gap, and fill it with competent professionals who are either practitioners or trained interpreters (Sachdeva et al. 36). The same can be said about including bilingual or multilingual learning materials in educational programs, based on the population and languages popular in the region. One potential variation of this approach is providing people with access to online preventative instructions, in case it is impossible to create the needed linguistic environment.

The Use of Formal Language

The use of formal language is another opportunity for holistic diabetes prevention. This refers to using generally acceptable and well-known medical terms in both print material and lectures devoted to preventative measures. It can be applied in any linguistic environment, without regard to the number of languages spoken by the inhabitants. Moreover, the idea is to communicate in a respectable manner without overcomplicating the material, while paying equal attention to everyone attending the educational program or interested in the area of diabetes prevention. This approach is an opportunity, because formal language offers respect for human dignity without regard to the individual’s background (Scheppers 343). As a result, it encourages an interest in educational materials and higher chances of applying them to real-life experience, i.e., for diabetes prevention.

Culture-Specific Printed Materials

When speaking of holistic diabetes prevention and its relation to language barriers, it is imperative to recognize that the linguistic gap is not the most significant issue. Nevertheless, bridging it would be beneficial. Because one of the ways to deal with the challenge of language barriers is creating a culturally competent environment, it is also vital to guarantee that educational materials and distributed printed materials are culture-specific. Culture-specific printed materials provide an opportunity for holistic diabetes prevention, because preventative measures center on lifestyles and particular eating habits, and these factors vary across cultures. It means that general recommendations should be based on the specificities of particular cultures common in specific regions. Even though printed materials are not always the best option for educational purposes, guaranteeing that they are provided in healthcare units, or even distributing them in the streets and making sure that they are designed in a culture-specific manner, is another great opportunity to promote holistic diabetes prevention (Scheppers 344).

Social Projects Related to Diabetes Prevention

Besides educational programs, there are other opportunities for holistic diabetes prevention, e.g., various social projects. One of the examples of social projects worthy of attention is the popular trend known as “less is more.” It is a social movement promoting a healthy lifestyle and health-promoting eating habits. The primary idea is returning to simple food and drink, emphasizing natural and healthy ingredients and avoiding processed products (Wiley par. 1). The significance of this trend in diabetes prevention cannot be underestimated, because leading a healthy lifestyle and being scrupulous when choosing food will lay a foundation for preventing type II diabetes caused by poor eating habits.

Another example of social projects is the Act of Giving Foundation. The strategic objective of this community is to promote compassion and unity in society (Act of Giving Foundation 1). Diabetes prevention, as a subject of interest, can be viewed from the perspective of this foundation, because the disease is an epidemic and, therefore, should be addressed not only through formal channels but also informal ones, i.e., in everyday communication.

E-Projects Related to Diabetes Prevention

Even though healthcare unit-based educational programs are among the most effective ways to teach diabetes prevention, nowadays, most people prefer online sources of information because they save time and resources. Moreover, the needed materials are provided in different languages, which eliminates the problems related to language barriers. However, online learning can be challenging, due to a lack of knowledge of specific medical terms, or their inadequate translation. In this case, some e-projects aimed at lifting language barriers might be beneficial. Examples of such initiatives include language exchange online communities and applications for smartphones and computers. The primary idea behind electronic projects is that they focus on sharing linguistic knowledge and better understanding of complicated terms and the peculiarities of particular languages. They unite people with different backgrounds from different countries, which makes them a perfect platform for sharing knowledge and promoting educational programs, especially those aimed at preventing diabetes.

Risks of holistic diabetes prevention

Even though there are numerous significant opportunities for holistic diabetes prevention, there are a variety of risks as well. This article section will study such primary challenges as the lack of knowledge of local languages, rapid change of local dialects, ineffective communication skills, and poor social interactions.

Lack of Knowledge of Local Languages

This risk can be viewed from two perspectives: that of a patient, and an educator. Still, the problem lies in the inability to share and exchange information using a local language (Scheppers 326). This leads to unequal access to a knowledge base and the consequent limiting of communication. The risk is especially acute in regions with significantly diversified communities, because it is costly to involve professionals with the needed linguistic background. It is also a factor to be considered when designing printed materials and distributing them, as well as launching local electronic projects related to diabetes prevention, because the initiatives are limited in reaching their initial goals if people cannot interpret the provided information.

Change of Local Dialects Across Minorities and Cultures

The existence of numerous local dialects is always a challenge for healthcare professionals. However, there is even more critical risk related to the fact that these dialects vary within cultures and ethnic minorities. As language tends to change over time, especially when the representatives of two or more linguistic minorities live in close proximity to each other, the risk of failing to interpret and understand information increases (Sachdeva et al. 36). Even if healthcare units manage to create multilingual environments, by employing culturally competent professionals or interpreters and designing culture-specific printed material, avoiding the risk of the evolution of a new local dialect is impossible and requires time and financial resources to address it, and as a result, endangering those whose communication is limited to only one, possibly obscure, dialect.

Ineffective Communication Skills

Effective communication goes beyond a glossary and knowledge of different languages. It is composed of both verbal and non-verbal communication. Sometimes, practitioners or educators overburden their lectures and learning materials with scientific terms or medical jargon; ignore local specificities of cultures regarding lifestyle, eating habits, and non-verbal communication; or simply cannot articulate their ideas in a simple manner (Martin et al. 192). The same can be said about educational materials provided online or as printed brochures. These instances are prime examples of ineffective communication skills that jeopardize the efficiency of diabetes prevention programs, because they are developed in a way that is hard to understand and apply in practice.

Poor Social Interactions

The most significant risk is poor social interactions. It implies a high level of ignorance in society, and a low level of support for launching educational programs (Martin et al. 193). Because diabetes is an epidemic that in most cases is related to poor eating habits and improper lifestyle, preventing it requires an overall social effort. In the case where people have different views on understanding and treating a disease, and there is no unity in the desire to combat it, implementing an effective diabetes prevention initiative is impossible, because it will either not be supported, or will be ignored.

Conclusion: Reflections on the Greatest Risks and Most Promising Opportunities for Holistic Diabetes Prevention

Bearing in mind the findings of the article, it can be said that lack of communication skills and poor social interactions are the most significant risks of holistic diabetes. Underpinning the rationale for making this statement is the fact that creating multilingual environments, or spreading valuable information regarding diabetes prevention, would not stimulate a positive change in society unless people learn to communicate openly and effectively, and help each other. The most promising opportunities are social movements and e-projects, because they reflect and mesh with the current stage of development of human civilization.

References

Act of Giving Foundation. 2015 Annual Report. 2016. Web.

Martin, Leslie, Summer R. Williams, Kelly B. Haskard, and M. Robin DiMatteo. “The Challenge of Patient Adherence.” Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management 1.2 (2005): 189-199. Print.

Sachdeva, Sandeep, Najam Khalique, Athar Ansari, Zulfia Khan, and Gaurav Sharma. “Cultural Determinants: Addressing Barriers to Holistic Diabetes Care.” Journal of Social Health and Diabetes 3.1 (2015): 33-38. Print.

Scheppers, Emmanuel, Els van Dongen, Jos Dekker, Jan Geertzen, and Joost Dekker. “Potential Barriers to the Use of Health Services Among Ethnic Minorities: A Review.” Family Practice 23.3 (2006): 325-348. Print.

Wiley, Carol. ‘Less Is More’: Trend Toward Fewer Ingredients to Continue in 2016. 2015. Web.

World Health Organization. Diabetes: Fact Sheet. 2016. Web.