sequelae in the general population and in ethnic minority populations; and present factors to be considered in developing effective and testable communication interventions for the prevention and control of diabetes in the future.
Five sets of factors make diabetes an ideal exemplar of communication programs that encourage decisions for and the adoption of health-promoting behaviors by members of ethnic minority populations. The first factor is the systemic nature of the disease. Diabetes can affect every organ system of the body and has severe consequences. Second, it is among the most prevalent of all disorders (Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group, 2001) and it has been more prevalent and more virulent among minority ethnic groups. Third, its impact covers the human lifespan. Diabetes affects the very young, adolescents in increasing numbers, adults, and the elderly. Its effects on the body and on physical and mental functioning change with advancing age. Fourth, diabetes is responsive to behavioral interventions. Unlike many other chronic conditions, both preventive and treatment behaviors are of proven effectiveness for avoiding and/or controlling the various insults of diabetes at all times in life (Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group, 2001; Saaddine et al., 2002).
The fifth and final factor concerns the way in which diabetes is experienced by individuals, their family, and their friends. Diabetes means different things to different people, and different things to the same people at different times. The somatic effects of diabetes and its treatment create an ever-changing array of experiences and feared consequences; different behaviors are required to control these unwanted events. Most important, the patient’s perspective on the disease and treatment—his or her representation as to how the disease and the treatment are affecting his or her body— will differ in a number of ways from the perspective held by those not affected. Thus, beliefs about the symptoms and causes of diabetes, the time frames for its consequences, and the procedures and