Living Together with Chronic Disease: Informal Support for Diabetes Management in Vietnam

Project summary

Global health is in transition: across the globe, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) pose urgent challenges to individuals, families and governments, hitting the world’s poor particularly hard. Due to their extensive human and economic costs, NCDs are considered to be one of the major development challenges of the 21st century, and NCDs hold a key position on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This project argues that in order to develop more effective and locally grounded responses to the gobal NCD epidemic, the resources and potentials of the informal health care sector (defined as the lay, nonprofessional part of the health care system) must be investigated.

The project aims to advance NCD research by providing new insights on the informal support that makes it possible (or not) for people with NCDs to manage their condition well, including making optimal use of professional health care services. As a case for addressing NCDs, the project focuses on type 2 diabetes (T2D) in Vietnam.

The project will be conducted in Thai Binh province as an academic partnership between Thai Binh University of Medicine and Pharmacy and the Universities of Copenhagen and Southern Denmark. The project will be conducted in close collaboration with the Danish-Vietnamese Strategic Sector Cooperation (SSC) project: Strengthening the Frontline Grassroots Health Worker: Prevention and Management of NCDs at the Primary Health Care Level, and with Novo Nordisk as private sector partner. Aiming for synergy with the SSC project, the proposed project aims to break new ground in diabetes care by developing innovative models for active involvement of informal support persons in day-to-day disease management, while also enhancing Vietnamese and Danish research capacities in the NCD field and offering new knowledge on the connections between informal support and everyday NCD management.


First-year report

The project’s immediate objectives are:
1.To generate new knowledge about the role of informal social support in everyday disease management among people with type 2 diabetes, thereby strengthening the basis for development of an intervention programme.
2.To develop, implement and assess a pilot intervention programme that uses mHealth technology and educational workshops to enhance everyday diabetes management, involving both individuals with type 2 diabetes and their informal support persons.
3.To strengthen the capacities of researchers in Vietnam to conduct interdisciplinary NCD research, exemplified by type 2 diabetes, and to communicate the results of their research effectively to wider audiences.
4.To strengthen research collaboration between Danish and Vietnamese NCD researchers.
5.To disseminate the results of the research to broader audiences, including health care providers/authorities, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, private companies, researchers, and the general public in Vietnam and internationally.

Since project launch on November 1, 2018, we have started our ethnographic study, working closely with 15 diabetes patients and their families (WP1). We have also completed our first cross-sectional survey(Q1), interviewing 884 people with diabetes about the informal forms of support that they receive. Further, data collection for our second cross-sectional survey (Q2) is on-going and nearly completed (WP2). WP1 and WP2 data analysis and write-up are on-going, and we are starting to prepare work on WP3, the pilot intervention.

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