For African American women, type 2 diabetes is a leading cause of serious health problems and death. Many African American women living with type 2 diabetes feel that healthier eating is the hardest part of type 2 diabetes self-care and also report low motivation to make changes in their diet. Diabetes medical nutrition therapy is a widely used treatment that provides diabetes patients with an individually tailored nutrition plan and nutritional counseling services. Existing treatment delivery methods have not been very effective in helping African American women eat healthier and improve their diabetes health.

Dr. Stephania Miller-Hughes’, a professor at Meharry Medical College, interest in diabetes research began years ago after witnessing the consequences of uncontrolled type 2 diabetes. “I grew up in the Delta region of the US and complications like blindness and limb amputations were common and often considered an inevitable part of living with type 2 diabetes.” Miller-Hughes says. 

To investigate an alternative method for providing diabetes medical nutrition therapy for African American women, a research team led by Miller-Hughes enrolled African American women in the SISTER (Sisters Inspiring Sisters to Engage in Relevant Diabetes Self Care) Diabetes Study. The SISTER study combines diabetes medical nutrition therapy with motivational strategies to increase healthier eating. 

Study participants attended group sessions that provided nutrition education, dietary self-care, and activities designed to increase motivation for healthier eating, such as exploring how healthier eating is related to what they value most in life.

Following the study, participants had improved blood sugar levels and were more confident in choosing healthier foods. “They made me really look at how I am managing my diabetes. As of today, I am on a great road to success,” a participant remarked. 

“Our findings identify a method of providing diabetes medical nutrition therapy that may be impactful in improving healthier eating and reducing risks of diabetes complications among African American women.  The next step is to confirm these findings in a larger study and use results to provide more effective diabetes medical nutrition therapy for African American women.” 

To learn more about the ongoing SISTER Diabetes study, please visit or email