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Faith-based organizations: a route reaching african american diabetes patients

September 29, 2015

Diabetes disproportionately impacts African Americans. As compared to the non-Hispanic White population, African Americans are 2.2 times more likely to die from diabetes. Additionally, African Americans are at greater risk for diabetes-related complications such as visual impairment, end-stage renal disease, uncontrollable high blood pressure, and lower-extremity amputations.1

Diabetes is arguably one of the most important health issues the African American community faces. As with all diabetes patients, African Americans are confronted with a host of barriers to optimal diabetes management. Such barriers include difficulty in managing treatment regimens (for diabetes plus an additional six comorbidities, on average), cost burdens, health literacy, and limited time with their healthcare professionals. Lack of cultural adaptation in diabetes self-management education (DSME) programs is an additional barrier to proper care affecting African American and other minority patients.

DSME programs educate patients on effective decision-making and problem-solving in managing diabetes, and also promote self-care behaviors (proper eating habits, adherence to treatment regimens, etc.). The knowledge gained in DSME programs arms patients with the tools needed to contend with the complexity of managing diabetes. Studies have shown that the absence of cultural and social adaptation in DSME programs inhibits their effectiveness in minority populations.1 Additionally, evidence suggests that there is a need to increase utilization of non-traditional avenues in delivering DSME programs. Namely, faith-based organizations are highly effective in garnering participation in DSME programs among African Americans, yet are underutilized in reaching African Americans with diabetes.1,2

There are several reasons delivering DSME programs to African Americans through faith-based organizations is advantageous:1,2

  • Often, the membership of a faith-based organization is united by common points of interest, cultural, and/or social backgrounds. This presents an opportunity for DSME programs to be tailored to the specific group they seek to reach.
  • 53% of African American adults attend worship services at least once per week (compared to 39% of the total US population).3 Studies have demonstrated higher completion rates when hosting DSME programs in and around regularly scheduled worship services.
  • Support of the organization’s leadership helps encourage participation and compliance in DSME programs.
  • Hosting DSME programs in faith-based organizations offers opportunities to reinforce key messages (for example, in sermons, or through modification of organizational food policies).


With the prevalence of diabetes continuing in its upward trend, it is important to utilize all effective modes of promoting better patient care and outcomes. Faith-based organizations are a promising avenue by which to equip African American patients with the tools they need to manage this complex condition.

For more information on the African American diabetes population, please contact Tasha Love at

1 Peña-Purcell, N. et al. (2015). “Translating an evidence-based diabetes education approach into rural African-American communities: The ‘Wisdom, Power, Control’ Program”. Diabetes Spectrum, Vol. 28(2).

2 Guiterrez, J. et al. (2014). “Health, community, and spirituality: Evaluation of a multicultural faith-based diabetes prevention program”. The Diabetes Educator, Vol. 40(2).

3 PEW Research Center,

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1 Comment

Great Post and Nice Article.I like it.Thanks for Sharing Very Informative Post.