Integrative Medicine Focus Groups as a Source of Patient Agency and Social Change for Chinese Americans with Type 2 Diabetes

  • Evelyn Y. Ho
  • Genevieve Leung
  • Han-Lin Chi
  • Siyuan Huang
  • Hua Zhang
  • Isabelle Ting
  • Donald Chan
  • Yuqi Chen
  • Sonya Pritzker
  • Elaine Hsieh
  • Hilary K. Seligman


Chinese Americans (CAs) are at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) compared to White Americans at the same BMI. In this chapter, we use a Culture-Centered Approach to investigate patient agency as it intersects with structure and culture in the talk during focus group interviews. The interviewees were CAs with T2DM discussing their diet and eating practices to manage this chronic condition. These interviews were conducted as part of a larger study to create an integrative diabetes diet that uses Chinese medicine-based diet suggestions for diabetes that are also nutritionally acceptable from a biomedical perspective. As we will present, CAs both use and are seeking ways to use Chinese medicine as a culturally informed way of asserting agency in how they manage their diabetes. CAs were often challenged in fully using Chinese medicine because of a variety of structural constraints including lack of access to information for determining the legitimacy of health practices. However, the participants were also quick to share information with one another to help others be more self-reliant and thus demonstrate how complementary and integrative healthcare can be a form of social justice.


Culture-centered approach Integrative medicine Chinese American Type 2 diabetes Agency Social change 



We wish to thank our research participants for generously sharing their time and their stories with us and UCSF’s Asian Health Institute and the University of San Francisco’s Faculty Development Fund for sponsoring this project.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Evelyn Y. Ho
    • 1
  • Genevieve Leung
    • 2
  • Han-Lin Chi
    • 3
  • Siyuan Huang
    • 1
  • Hua Zhang
    • 4
  • Isabelle Ting
    • 1
  • Donald Chan
    • 1
  • Yuqi Chen
    • 1
  • Sonya Pritzker
    • 5
  • Elaine Hsieh
    • 6
  • Hilary K. Seligman
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of Communication StudiesUniversity of San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Rhetoric and LanguageUniversity of San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA
  3. 3.School of NursingUniversity of California, San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA
  4. 4.Wenzhou Medical UniversityWenzhouChina
  5. 5.UCLA Center for East West MedicineSanta MonicaUSA
  6. 6.Department of Nutrition and Public HealthUniversity of Saint JosephWest HartfordUSA
  7. 7.Division of General Internal Medicine and Center for Vulnerable Populations, Zuckerberg San Francisco General HospitalUniversity of California, San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA

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