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Health Equity Forum: Community Spotlight – October 2015

New Initiative Raises Diabetes Awareness in San Diego Refugee Communities

By Rebecca Paida, Senior Program Manager, Nile Sisters Development Initiative

Building a healthy, safe, and thriving community in San Diego has been and continues to be the vision of the Nile Sisters Development Initiative (NSDI). The mission of the organization is to educate, support, and offer training to refugee and immigrant women and their families to overcome barriers to social and economic self-reliance. NSDI started as a support group serving African refugees; however, in 2007, the organization expanded its services to reach a non-African refugee/immigrant community including Burmese, Haitian, and Middle Eastern populations.

Every year, hundreds of refugees are resettled in San Diego County, making it the largest resettlement site in California. Refugees and immigrants contend with social and environmental conditions that contribute to adverse health outcomes. Not only are the refugees and immigrants faced with new dietary challenges, many are also resettled in food deserts, which limits their access to healthy foods. The lack of green space in resettlement communities also contributes to minimal physical activity and increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

A large percentage of the population NSDI serves is monolingual and these language barriers makes it difficult for many of the organization’s constituents to understand complex data and visuals. To help these communities better understand food measurement and other important nutritional information, NSDI uses visuals and tools, including MyPlate, which illustrates familiar foods and methods of measurement, such as a fist to approximate one cup size. NSDI has also implemented a health initiative called Type 2, Not You! (T2NY!), a diabetes education and prevention program funded by Kaiser Permanente. The program relies on culturally appropriate literature and methods to facilitate healthy behavior changes, such as promoting physical activity through cultural dancing and offering community workshops that educate constituents on convenient, culturally sensitive, and healthy recipes.

NSDI’s efforts achieved recognition when the organization became a designated partner with Live Well San Diego in August 2015. The organization’s unique diabetes prevention program was recently profiled by Diabetes Daily, a prominent educational and emotional support online newsletter. Through theT2NY! Program, NSDI strives to ensure their populations receive equal access to primary prevention methods in San Diego County and aim to eliminate health disparities that disproportionately burden these populations. Visit our website for more information on T2NY! events.