Lifestyle interventions can prevent diabetes through weight loss, but they are rarely translated for use in underserved communities. The aim of this study was to describe how a community-academic partnership formed and developed a program to address local health disparities by developing a low-cost, culturally and economically appropriate, peer-led community-based diabetes prevention program. Using a participatory approach, the partnership chose to focus on diabetes prevention, and co-developed all intervention, recruitment, research, and evaluation strategies. The partnership's philosophy to maintain high clinical and scientific standards paired with their ability to represent and engage the community facilitated the development of a randomized controlled trial that achieved statistically significant and sustained weight loss, and the recruitment of a largely Spanish-speaking, low income, uninsured population. The success of this intervention lies in the partnership's commitment to the community, co-ownership of research, and a careful balance between academic rigor and community engagement and relevance.