Diabetic South Asians know less about the nature of diabetes than Europeans. In view of the difficulties in communicating with diabetic South Asians in a clinical environment, a 'self help group' was established. The group was initially resourced by the Coventry Diabetes Study, became independent after 2 years and has met monthly for 4 years. Meetings are led and organized by local diabetic South Asians and include invited speakers and discussions. All meetings are held in one of the South Asian languages, particularly Punjabi. Attendance has ranged from 15 to 50, almost exclusively from the surveyed diabetic population of one electoral ward. Those with a high glycated haemoglobin (HbA1 > 9.5%) were assessed 12 months after invitation to the group, 44% (22/51) of whom attended at least twice. Those living over 1 mile from the meeting place and those speaking a minority language were least likely to attend. Those who attended the group had a greater drop in HbA1 and increase in 'knowledge score' than those not attending (both p < 0.01). The continued existence of the group illustrates the ability of local health workers to facilitate and empower local communities to become more responsible for their own health.