As Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) living with type 1 diabetes (T1D), at times our story carries triumph, wisdom and power, and a sense of built-in community. The ability to successfully navigate our unique world is made possible through access to knowledge and resources. 

My experience as a diabetes advocate and Black woman living with T1D for over 40 years has made me aware that BIPOC communities have limited access to diabetes resources, technology, and care. Imagine trying to navigate life with T1D without the necessary tools and support.  

This is the reality for many BIPOC individuals, and it’s why your voice matters. Let’s look at ways to build confidence and knowledge, so you feel empowered to seek the T1D care you deserve.  


Find a provider that “gets you” 

Finding a healthcare provider that understands T1D is life changing. Finding a healthcare provider that understands your culture, family structure, work-life balance — and your T1D — is life saving. 

During the 2020 DiabetesMine Innovations Days, over 200 BIPOC T1Ds completed surveys that revealed a common theme: Respondents felt like their healthcare providers did not have cultural sensitivity, which resulted in assuming they were not active partners in their care.   

Research suggests individuals with T1D may experience depression, anxiety, or other mental health challenges at higher rates than individuals who do not have diabetes. By finding a culturally sensitive provider who delivers high-quality, personalized care, it may help to improve your quality of care and outcomes.  

Why is finding a healthcare provider that “gets you” so important? Because when your culture is considered, it may help lower your risk of diabetes burnout. Simply being understood is empowering. Finding your care team is like dating, so it may take some patience and you may have to meet a few before finding the best match.  


Ways to find a healthcare provider that “gets you!” 

Use research ratings: Hospitals and healthcare providers often have ratings and reviews. Reading other individuals’ experiences can be helpful in your decision making. 

Ask your community: Utilize social media platforms and T1D groups for recommendations. Engage with Facebook groups, Instagram chats, and diabetes-related hashtags. 

Utilize provider directories: In recent years, BIPOC practitioners have recognized the gap in care for BIPOC individuals living with T1D. This resulted in the creation of databases to find culturally aware practitioners such as Diversity in Diabetes and Diversify Dietetics 


Diversity and inclusion in media      

In marketing, the “know, trust and like factor” means when someone has a positive view of a company, they’re more likely to make a purchase.  And, without a diverse representation in media, it can be difficult to feel connected to diabetes-related brands.  

Having diversity and inclusion in media gives confidence, hope, and awareness to the T1D community. For many years, it was difficult for me to imagine living a long, healthy life with T1D, because I didn’t “see” anyone who looked like me.   

That said, a recent Dexcom ad gave me confidence to wear my diabetes devices proudly. It serves as a small example of why diversity matters and as a BIPOC, instilled trust in my decision to use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). 


Can media that represents you and your culture impact diabetes management? 

Yes. Representation and culturally relevant media matters for BIPOC T1Ds. It may be more difficult to manage T1D confidently if no one resembles you in diabetes media. 

Research suggests when diabetes education and media consider beliefs about food, health and culture, health outcomes improve. The African American Diabetes Association has considered the unique barriers of BIPOC communities and created a resource list to help support you.   


Navigating meals: the challenges and triumphs as a BIPOC with T1D 

Food is one identifying element of a person’s culture. It isn’t just used to nourish your body. As Chioma Ngonadi said in High on the Hog, a docuseries on Netflix, “Food really tells you a whole lot about people’s identity and people’s cultural heritage.” 

We eat for many varied reasons: religious ceremonies, fun, sadness, boredom, celebratory events, and the list can go on. Given what food means culturally, people with diabetes find unique challenges in balancing both.  

In my role as a dietitian, the question has been asked, “Is it okay to eat Malanga, Fufu, or Samosas with diabetes?” The answer is a resounding, YES!  

If you eliminate culture when eating, you ultimately deny a part of your heritage. Cultural foods bring nourishment and community to otherwise sometimes lonely mealtime experiences.   


3 ways to navigate celebrations, culture, and carbs  

Relax. When attending celebrations, stress can cause blood glucose to rise. It’s important to remember that glucose values are information and are not a moral reflection of your worth. If your glucose isn’t within target range today, that’s okay, tomorrow is a new day. 

Plan. Planning ahead may be difficult to wrap your mind around. But it’s especially important for diabetes and for those with food allergies or intolerances. Knowing the menu beforehand can make diabetes management a little easier and less stressful.  

Use a nutrition app. There are an endless number of nutrition apps that are particularly helpful with carbohydrate counting. You can learn more here 


Your advocacy can influence the experience of others 

Did you know you are beautifully and wonderfully made? Your story carries triumph, wisdom, and power — and it needs to be heard. Through advocacy you can express yourself and show the world your unique journey living with T1D. 

My advocacy journey began when I saw no black women with T1D participating in CrossFit. This gave birth to my Instagram account where I shine light, hope, and positivity to those living with diabetes. Because of this, I’ve met many BIPOC T1Ds who I speak with regularly.  

Kylene, CEO of @Blackdiabeticgirl, shares her journey into advocacy and developing partnerships with diabetes-related companies.  Through her platform, she inspires, encourages, and shares her life as a Black, plus-sized woman with T1D.  

She emphasizes the importance of being an authentic participant by being yourself and having a positive message to share. Kylene also encourages newer advocates to present solutions rather than continuing to point out issues with diversity in T1D care. 


Things to think about when starting to advocate online 

Use a public platform. If it’s private, your voice can’t be heard. 

Create it and they will come. Just start posting. Your voice as an advocate will grow as you continue to share.  

Get involved in research. You can participate in type 1 diabetes research from home — by joining the T1D Exchange Registry! It’s free, it only takes 15 minutes to get started, and you’ll have access to ongoing studies and surveys that help improve life for people with T1D. 

Being confident in finding the right provider, having representation in the media, sharing our unique culture and stories, advocating, and participating in T1D research will empower all BIPOC individuals living with T1D.