Culture, Social Support, and Diabetes Empowerment Among American Indian Adults Living With Type 2 Diabetes

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OBJECTIVE | Type 2 diabetes represents a major health disparity for many American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) communities, in which prevalence rates are more than double that of the general U.S. population. Diabetes is a major indicator for other comorbidities, including the leading cause of death for AIANs (i.e., cardiovascular disease). This study investigated associations between protective factors (social support and cultural factors) and self-reported empowerment to manage illness. DESIGN AND METHODS | Participants were drawn from a random sample of tribal clinic records. Data included results from computer-assisted personal interviews with 192 American Indian adults with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes living on or near a reservation. Community Research Councils, developed at each of the five partnering Anishinaabe reservations, oversaw protocols and procedures in this community-based participatory research collaboration. RESULTS | Multiple ordinary least squares regression models determined that general social support and diabetes-specific social support are positively related to diabetes empowerment. These associations persisted when both social support measures were added to the model, indicating independent effects of different types of social support. Cultural identity and cultural practices were positively related to diabetes empowerment in bivariate analyses; however, both measures dropped from statistical significance after accounting for all other covariates. An interaction term revealed a moderation effect through which cultural identity amplified the positive relationship between social support and diabetes empowerment. CONCLUSION | Results moderately support policy and risk-reduction efforts aiming at expanding social support networks into multiple domains and reinforcing cultural identity and cultural practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)156-164
Number of pages9
JournalDiabetes Spectrum
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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