South Asians are three times more likely to have diabetes than Caucasians. Aiming to address this ethnic disparity in diabetes rates, researchers from Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) have discovered an historical link between exposure to computers and mobiles and ethnic differences in diabetes rates. This investigation has implications for how information and communication technologies (ICTs) can be used to assist nursing care delivery, and improve patient outcomes.
The academics analysed archived data from the UK Data Service, which revealed that South Asians are three times more likely to have diabetes than Caucasians, and smoking can be particularly damaging for people with diabetes.
The study, funded by the Sustainable Society Network based at Imperial College London, found that home computing may be clinically beneficial for South Asian diabetes sufferers because computer owners of that ethnic group were less likely to smoke, compared with Caucasian patients. This may be due to South Asians engaging with and benefiting more from online anti-smoking campaigns.
Researchers also found that South Asian diabetes patients receiving income support were more heavily dependent on mobile phones for communication, compared to Caucasian patients. This finding may be attributed to more pronounced cost-saving efforts amongst poor South Asian families, who may prefer not to invest in a fixed-line phone. Alternatively, South Asians diabetes patients may have a better grasp of the benefits of health care delivered via mobile phone functions, such as text messaging, apps, and video chat.
Diabetes specialist nurses can use text messaging and video chat to consult with and advice diabetes patients who rely heavily on mobile devices. This means patients can receive prompt and more frequent guidance on how to manage their condition, without the need to travel to a clinic or hospital for a face-to-face consultation. This may be particularly important for elderly or low income patients who may be unable to travel, for health or financial reason.
Dr Kanayo Umeh, LJMU School of Natural Sciences & Psychology, who led the study alongside Stephanie Le-Brun Davis and Dr Michael Mackay, said:
"This was the first study to shed light on the qualifying effect of ICT uptake on ethnic variations in diabetes risk, and implications for nursing care. Home computing was linked to better risk factor (cigarette smoking) control amongst South Asian diabetes patients living in terrace properties, while mobile phone dependence was characteristic of cases receiving income support. Cigarette smoking may be an especially important topic when delivering diabetes care to South Asian cases from computer-equipped terrace homes.
"Given the increasingly widespread use of computers and mobile devices in the general population, any connection between this trend and diabetes rates across ethnic groups may provide a much needed opportunity to reduce the higher diabetes rates in ethnic minority communities, via technological means."
Dr Michael Mackay, LJMU School of Computer Science, added:
"As smartphones become increasingly ubiquitous among all age-groups and across societies, they offer a massive potential to help us monitor and manage our health on a day-to-day basis. Moreover, the increasing range of apps already available across all devices, and the Internet capabilities offered by 4G (and 5G in the future) means that eHealth can only become a more effective tool going forward."
The full article appeared in the British Journal of Nursing