Social determinants of health likely play a significant role in the development of type 2 diabetes for women in vulnerable communities. Adult African American women diagnosed with or at-risk for diabetes in Inkster, Michigan (n = 113) and a group of demographically similar women in Flint, Michigan (n = 48) participated in programs aimed at increasing diabetes-related self-management behaviors through peer coaching, health literacy training, and social support. Participants completed surveys to measure changes in health, health behaviors, health literacy, and social support. We found that these diabetes programs with a focus on increasing women's capacity to practice health management behaviors, navigate the health care system, and connect with social support, led to an increase in healthy behaviors and a reported increase in both overall and diabetes-specific health over an 18 month period. Overall health, general diet and specific diet improved significantly (p < 0.05) from baseline to follow-up, when controlled for age, diabetes status and site. Exercise also improved, but the change was not statistically significant. Women who participated in the intervention changed health behaviors, and increased their sense of health literacy and social support. Improvement in women's access to and use of community preventive services, and the provision of outreach support using community health workers (CHWs) and peer mentorship was an integral part of creating these changes. Although this study found that a variety of diabetes prevention and management programs provided opportunities for positive health changes, findings also suggest that it is critical to address the burdens women from vulnerable communities face in order to participate in these programs.
Keywords: Community health; Diabetes prevention and management; Health disparities; Health promotion; Women’s health.