Understanding Cultural Beliefs in Families of Somali Children with Diabetes in the Twin Cities, Minnesota

Muna Sunni, Mohamed Farah, Christine Hardie, Abdirahman M. Dhunkal, M. Jennifer Abuzzahab, Jennifer H. Kyllo, Melena D Bellin, Brandon M Nathan, Antoinette Moran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Describe cultural beliefs related to diabetes in Minnesota Somali children with type 1 diabetes (T1D), and compare their diabetes control to that of non-Somali children with diabetes. A cross-sectional study involving Somali children ≤19 years with T1D at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. A survey was administered to parents of all participants and to children aged ≥12 years. Data were collected by history and from the medical record. Twenty-five Somali children participated, with 24 parent–child pairs (2 siblings). Mean participant age was 12.2 ± 5.2 (36 % female). Seventy-one percent of parents indicated the child was “the same as before” other than having to do diabetes cares. Families were coping well, and the child was not treated differently than siblings. Performance of routine cares was described as the hardest part about having diabetes, but this was not related to traditional culture or religion. One notable exception was difficulty performing carbohydrate counting on Somali foods. Respondents were appreciative of the education provided by the diabetes team. Less than 10 % used herbal supplements in addition to insulin. Mean HbA1c in Somali children was higher than the overall pediatric clinic average, 9.5 ± 1.6 % versus 8.8 ± 1.6 (p = 0.01). The difference was largely due to adolescent patients. The majority of Somali families cope well with diabetes and have a positive attitude towards the diabetes education. Glycemic control in adolescents is worse than in non-Somali peers. There is a need for culture-specific dietary instruction materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)827-833
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Community Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Culture
  • Diabetes control
  • HbA1c
  • Somali
  • T1D


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