DiabetesSisters launched its first health forum on April 7, 2016, in Silver Spring, MD. With a focus on African American women with, or at-risk of, diabetes, we welcomed 65 women dedicated to improving their health and quality of life. The program was led by DiabetesSisters Board Member Andrea Thomas, who shared her personal story of diabetes diagnosis and finding DiabetesSisters, an organization that provided information and empowered her to work together with her healthcare team to live her best diabetes life.
Throughout the evening, representatives from the Black Women’s Health Imperative (Angela Ford, PhD, MPH), the US Food & Drug Administration Office of Women’s Health (Zakiya Bell, MS), the African American Health Program (Cori Haynes, RN), and DiabetesSisters (Sarah Mart, MS, MPH) shared knowledge about diabetes and women of color. Women in attendance shared stories about living victoriously with diabetes in their own lives and inquired about support, behavior change, and treatment options. Specific themes of the program included:
- Advocating for oneself as women living with diabetes
- Increasing the number and diversity of females in clinical trials
- Accessing diabetes self-management tools and education
- Feeling shame and stigma from healthcare providers, community members, and family about diabetes – and how to address that shame
- Creating safe, respectful spaces for women with all types of diabetes to share, learn, and get peer support
- Making educated choices and decisions about medications, medical devices, and resources.
At the conclusion of the evening, participants expressed newfound motivation to work with their healthcare providers and learn more about how to manage diabetes, along with the need for more education on diabetes-friendly cooking and nutrition, and managing prediabetes. Dr. Ford of the Black Women’s Health Imperative reminded the groups of a quote from Dr. Phil: “You cannot address what you don’t acknowledge." She encouraged women to start talking about diabetes in their families, churches and community; to bring diabetes out of the closet; and to address the shame others may attach to a diabetes diagnosis.
DiabetesSisters would like to express appreciation to program sponsors Boehringer-Ingelheim, Janssen, Lilly, and Novo Nordisk, as well as Mt. Jezreel Healthy Temple Ministry for offering meeting space, and Sister Brenda Robinson for leading the group in prayer.