Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version

Spring 4-20-2018

Thesis Advisor

Dr. Frances K. Barg


type II diabetes, chronic illness, biomedicine, natural remedies, health transition, post-colonialism


As part of the Guatemala Health Initiative program, I spent ten weeks in the Western Highlands of Guatemala in one of the towns surrounding the lake region: Santiago Atitlan. My research question was among indigenous Maya who have been diagnosed with type II diabetes in the Western highlands of Guatemala, what is their experience with diagnosis, treatment, and management of type II diabetes?

With assistance from the Hospitalito Atitlan, the primary referral hospital in the region, I conducted semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of 41 people with diabetes. Patients were recruited from diabetes clubs at different health centers and a private clinic. I wanted to take a look at the experience of diagnosis, access to treatment, and management of type II diabetes among Tz’utujil and Kaqchiquel Maya in order to try to understand the factors that contribute to their experience.

There are key features in diet, history, and gender roles that with further evaluation could reveal an explanatory model for the factors associated with managing type II diabetes among indigenous Maya. The population of the lake region incorporates ethnic medicine with biomedical treatment, so that there is not just one solution for managing type II diabetes. While most of the people interviewed were receptive to medication from their health care providers, there was division among those who preferred herbal remedies and those who preferred taking both medication and herbal remedies. Cost was identified as a major barrier in attempting lifestyle change. Patients expressed a sense of distrust toward their health care providers that caused them to withhold information about their lifestyle change attempts and medication adherence. Overall, the experience of managing type II diabetes among indigenous Maya is one that is filled with hardship, loneliness, and alienation.



Date Posted: 11 June 2018


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