by Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN
Constance – President and Owner of CBR Nutrition Enterprises is the author of the newly released Diabetes Guide to Enjoying Foods of the World published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; The African American Guide to Living Well With Diabetes, which received the Favorably Reviewed designation from the American Association of Diabetes Educators; and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes. Constance was recently elected chair-elect of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Diabetes Care and Education Practice Group (2018 – 2019), and she is a former member of the board of directors for the American Association of Diabetes Educators.
Minority populations in the United States are growing rapidly and changing the face of diabetes. In fact, the US Census Bureau projects that by the year 2050 the Asian, Hispanic, and African American populations will increase 212.9%, 187.9%, and 71.3%, respectively, compared with 32.4% for the white population. This changing diabetes demographic increases the likelihood that diabetes educators will encounter clients and patients from cultural backgrounds different from their own.
The goal of diabetes self-management education is to help clients learn how to incorporate healthful behaviors in their lives to prevent diabetes complications and improve their quality of life.1 The key to achieving these goals is to provide culturally competent care, which is linked to client satisfaction, adherence to intervention strategies, and health outcomes.2 When cultural differences between the client and diabetes educator aren’t taken into consideration, diabetes self-management goals won’t be met.
Evidence shows that the most successful diabetes self-management programs often include practitioners who culturally identify with the population being served, but according to 2017 demographic information from AADE, 85% percent of diabetes educators are white and 15% percent identify themselves as belonging to a minority ethnic group.
This is not to say existing diabetes educators cannot work effectively with clients of ethnicities other than their own. But because the majority of the diabetes population includes people of color, cultural competence and a real understanding of a client’s circumstances are critical to effective counseling.
AADE recognizes the chasm between the racial and ethnic makeup of those impacted by diabetes and those delivering diabetes education. To that end, last year the board of directors approved the development of a diversity taskforce – for which I am honored to chair. The committee’s charge is to gain a preliminary understanding of potential ways to increase diversity in our membership, products, and services. One of the questions that the diversity task force will seek to answer is how AADE can attract diverse healthcare professionals into diabetes self-management education and support?
Additionally, AADE President-elect Karen Kemmis, DPT, MS, GCS, CDE, FAADE developed a diversity subcommittee to be part of the AADE19 Annual Planning Committee. The goal of the diversity subcommittee is to design a series of high-impact sessions on all areas of diversity including cultural diversity and competency.
Finally, AADE's long-standing Diversity Community of Interest (COI) remains an excellent resource for diabetes educators to learn more about cultural diversity and competency. As a diabetes educator who is passionate about shortening the cultural distance between the person with diabetes and their healthcare provider, I applaud and fully support the strides that AADE is making towards cultural diversity.
1. American Association of Diabetes Educators. Successful Diabetes Management Should Address Cultural Differences: Five Tips for Improving Self-Care. Available at: https://www.diabeteseducator.org/docs/default-source/legacy-docs/_resources/pdf/general/Five_Tips_for_Improving_Self-Care_v3.pdf. Accessed April 30, 2018.
2. Health Affairs. Cultural Competence And Health Care Disparities: Key Perspectives And Trends. Available at: http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/24/2/499.full. Accessed April 30, 2018.