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Keywords:

  • Emirati women;
  • focus group interviews;
  • type 2 diabetes prevention;
  • United Arab Emirates;
  • weight management

Abstract

Obesity and associated chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, are highly prevalent in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This qualitative study explored weight management behaviours and perceptions of women who are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes through focus group interviews. A total of 75 Emirati national women (age, 20–60 years) considered high risk for type 2 diabetes participated in eight focus groups. Purposive sampling was used to recruit women from primary healthcare centres (PHCs) in Al Ain, UAE. Qualitative research methodology involving a modified approach to grounded theory was used to guide data collection and analysis. Focus group interviews transcripts were thematically analyzed using NVivo software. A number of personal, social and physical environmental themes emerged as both barriers and enablers that are consistent with the social ecological model of health promotion. Low motivation, lack of social support, competing demands, lack of culturally-sensitive exercise facilities and sociocultural norms that restrict outdoor physical activities were the main barriers cited by the participants. On the other hand, social support, such as having other women to walk with, helped them stay physically active. Suggestions from the participants included enhancing social support for women, greater access to dietitians and nutrition information, and increasing availability of culturally-sensitive exercise facilities. This study provides valuable information in the development of culturally congruent healthy weight promotion programmes for women at risk for type 2 diabetes in the UAE and has implications for obesity intervention programmes for women in other Arabian Gulf countries.