“It is not possible for me to have diabetes”–Community Perceptions on Diabetes and Its Risk Factors in Rural Purworejo District, Central Java, Indonesia

  •  Cahya Utamie Pujilestari    
  •  Nawi Ng    
  •  Mohammad Hakimi    
  •  Malin Eriksson    


Accumulating evidence suggests that negative perceptions towards diabetes can limit the management and prevention of the disease. The negative perceptions towards diabetes are prevalent in many different settings, especially among rural communities. Few qualitative studies have been performed to understand how the community views diabetes and its associated risk factors. This study aimed to explore general community perceptions of diabetes and its risk factors in rural Indonesia. A total of 68 participants were recruited to 12 focus group discussions (FGDs) comprised of different age groups and sexes. The FGDs were conducted in six villages in rural Purworejo District, Central Java, Indonesia, from 2011 to 2012. All FGDs were recorded and transcribed. Qualitative content analysis was performed to describe and analyse how the rural community perceived diabetes and its risk factors. Diabetes was perceived as a visible and scary sugar disease, and the affected individuals themselves were blamed for getting the disease. Recognised as ‘sugar’ or ‘sweet-pee’ disease with terrifying effects, diabetes was believed to be a disease with no cure. The participants seemed to have an unrealistic optimism with regards to the diabetes risk factors. They believed that diabetes would not affect them, only others, and that having family members with diabetes was necessary for one to develop diabetes. Our findings demonstrate that rural communities have negative perceptions about diabetes and at the same time individuals have unrealistic optimism about their own risk factors. Understanding how such communities perceive diabetes and its risk factors is important for planning prevention strategies. Health messages need to be tailored to health-related behaviours and the local culture’s concepts of diseases and risk factors.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.