The Diabetes Talking Circles Research was funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research through a joint partnership with the Center for American Indian Research & Education (then at the University of Minnesota, and now at the University of California at Los Angeles) and Seva's Native American Diabetes Wellness Program.
The research was conducted during a four-year period from 1998 to 2002. Diabetes Talking Circles were tested as a culturally appropriate tool to increase knowledge of diabetes, how it is treated, and nutrition and activity/exercise as part of diabetes prevention and treatment. The study also measured the extent that new knowledge resulted in Talking Circle participants adopting behavior changes that improved wellness.
The four-year research and education intervention was conducted among Native American adults living with diabetes or at-risk for diabetes across four Northern Plains reservations: the Winnebago Reservation in Nebraska; and the Yankton Sioux, Rosebud Sioux, and Pine Ridge reservations in South Dakota.
The results clearly demonstrated a successful culturally appropriate intervention at the four reservations. Statistically significant changes were observed in several areas:
- Fatalistic attitudes toward diabetes were significantly reduced
- Diabetes knowledge was improved in sevaral areas.
- Knowledge improved significantly regarding dietary fat.
- Dietary fat and fiber knowledge increased among the male intervention group members.
- Exercise knowledge increase significantly.
- Diabetes treatment compliance improved.
- Exercise increased in frequency.
- Obesity levels (BMI) were reduced.
Culturally Appropriate Interventions
This study is important, as it demonstrates the strength and success of a culturally appropriate intervention on diabetes for Native Americans. The study found that Diabetes Talking Circles changed fatalistic beliefs and presented an educational program that was readily adopted as an empowerment step toward the prevention and control of diabetes among Native Americans living with diabetes. The use of traditional circles, group support, and traditional food (including buffalo meat) in a spiritual milieu, created an acceptable way for participants to express their feelings, receive support, absorb information, and strengthen traditional ties — all supporting the goal of the prevention, treatment and control of diabetes.