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Cynthia Fletcher


People of Pacific Island descent are afflicted by obesity and diabetes more than other populations. Although interventions have succeeded in reducing these conditions among other groups, they have been unsuccessful among Tongans and other Pacific Islanders. Furthermore, little is known about the cultural perspectives of this population with a high rate of obesity and diabetes. Accordingly, this descriptive phenomenological study was conducted to investigate the lived experiences of Tongans with obesity and diabetes in a western metropolitan area of the United States to understand their predisposition toward these conditions and suggest appropriate interventions. Purposive sampling was used to recruit 11 Tongans, 18 years or older, with obesity and diabetes. Face-to-face interviews were conducted using open-ended questions. Data analysis consisted of verbatim transcription and splitter coding, which identified 5 emerging themes. The findings indicated that cultural customs have created an emotional attachment among Tongan participants to their native foods and that they feel obliged to eat abundantly at food-related social events. Moreover, they mistrust their healthcare professionals, which results in non-adherence to medical advice. The findings align with Martha Rogers' theory of the science of unitary human beings and Bandura's model of reciprocal determinism that there is a strong relationship between people and their cultural environment. This study's findings provide an understanding that may lead to positive social change in designing culturally specific preventive programs to decrease obesity and diabetes and ensure a better quality of life for Tongans.

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