Rural Vincentians’ (Caribbean) beliefs about the usage of non-prescribable medicines for treating Type 2 diabetes


Joan R. S. McDowell, Division of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Glasgow, 59 Oakfield Ave, Glasgow G12 8LW, UK. E-mail:


Aims  To explore beliefs among persons in St. Vincent, a rural Caribbean Community, regarding the usage of non-prescribable medicines for treating Type 2 diabetes.

Methods  A phenomenological enquiry explored people's experiences and the manner in which they interpret these. One focus-group interview was conducted of persons attending a rural diabetes clinic in St Vincent to generate insights into the phenomenon. Analysis was undertaken using the four steps utilized in phenomological studies of bracketing, intuiting, analysis and description. The findings result in deeper understanding and definition of the phenomenon.

Results  A variety of non-prescribable, predominantly herbal and folk, medicines were commonly used as a means of self care in diabetes. Usage was underpinned by a system of lay beliefs about diabetes and beliefs in the treatment efficacy of folk medicine. A strong religious influence formed the basis of diabetes treatment and offered some symptom relief and therefore treatment satisfaction through spiritual revelations about remedies. Conventional medicines were taken in conjunction with non-prescribable treatments or else not at all.

Conclusions  Non-prescribable medicines were believed by participants to be efficacious. Conventional medication was perceived as an access to medical care. Study findings may be relevant to other rural populations with strong social and religious mores.