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Abstract

In this study, I leverage the sociological research on cultural health capital (Shim 2010) and social networks (Small 2006) to elucidate the mechanisms impacting how individuals with diabetes deal with their illness and navigate access to additional diabetes care resources. Drawing from ethnographic data collected during fieldwork examining diabetes healthcare resources and interviews with individuals living with diabetes on the South Side of Chicago, I examine how access to quality healthcare interacts with the daily lives and illness experiences of individuals with diabetes. Qualitative methods allow me to delve deeply into the individual experiences of respondents and identify the mechanisms by which diabetes care is negotiated. I argue that it is important to consider fundamental causes of health inequality beyond socioeconomic status, as I reveal how access to reliable and high-quality healthcare plays a fundamental role in health outcomes by impacting individuals’ ability to seek and access quality care and resources through multiple mechanisms. I specifically examine these mechanisms, as I show how access to healthcare and continuity of care influences healthcare outcomes through insurance status, trust in the doctor-patient relationship, sustainable medication and management routines, and access to healthcare information networks. Ultimately, I argue that access to health insurance is fundamental, structuring individuals’ ability to develop and maintain continuous medical care and strong relationships with their doctors, impacting individuals’ access to important medications and healthcare resources, ability to manage their illnesses, and overall health.

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