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Sisterhood Is a Key to Wellness: Diabetes Education for African American Women in Wards 7 and 8

“When ‘I’ is replaced by ‘we’, even illness becomes wellness.”

When Malcolm X spoke these words, he shared a powerful truth, whether he spoke of the state of our community as a whole, or he referred to our physical well-being. Over 20 years, SHIRE has promoted togetherness as a tool to advance health and wellness. We have affirmed the importance of knowing about diabetes and other chronic conditions. We have underscored the importance of healthy eating, physical activity, and reducing our stress. We have helped community members understand the importance of interacting with health providers as informed partners.

Our most important message however, throughout our years of service in Ward 8, Ward 7, and other areas of the District of Columbia has been the need for “we”. That has been the key to the success of the Wellness Circles we have conducted in partnership with the District of Columbia government and AmeriHealth Caritas District of Columbia.

SHIRE has created “safe places” where men, women, and even children can come together to support each other, listen to each other’s challenges, applaud lifestyle changes and celebrate improved health outcomes. We have cried together, laughed together, and prayed together. Coming to the table as individuals challenged by illness, we have seen many of our sisters and brothers leave the circles as empowered companions on the road to wellness.

Gratefully, despite the onset of COVID-19, SHIRE has continued to build communities supporting health and wellness. Since April this year, we have worked in partnership with Global Sustainable Partnerships (GSP) and their strategic partner, CareFirst, to conduct a Diabetes Wellness Education Program to support Advancing Equitable Health to Reduce Diabetes. Launched initially to promote the empowerment of women in Africa, due to COVID, GSP pivoted their efforts to focus on African American women in Wards 7 and 8 who have diabetes or are pre-diabetic. Educational sessions are conducted for groups of women each Saturday morning for a month by Zoom. GSP also arranges for outdoor activities to supplement these weekly educational sessions.

SHIRE’s role is to help build a sense of community among each group of women by connecting them with SHIRE peer educators who stay in close communication with them throughout the month, encouraging their participation. GSP reinforces the sense of togetherness, (“I want for my Sisters what I want for Myself”) by soliciting active participation during Zoom sessions and sharing of experiences.

We urge participants to see themselves as a “Sisterhood” where we support and inspire each other as we gain information about tools to use to take charge of diabetes, our health, and our lives. This is how we can move, in Malcolm’s words, from Illness to Wellness.

GSP and SHIRE are recruiting African American women with diabetes/pre-diabetes for monthly sessions beginning again in September. To register, call any one of the following numbers:
202-246-2429
202-378-0349
202-840-5306

We welcome our sisters to continue the journey to Wellness together!

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