In the United States, more than 88 million adults suffer from prediabetes. Roughly 84% of these individuals are unaware that they have this disease.

The Southeast Diabetes Faith Initiative (SDFI) is a multi-state faith-based initiative created by The Balm In Gilead to expand access and utilize the National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP). The goal of SDFI is to address the increasing burden of prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes in the African American community.

A New Way of Learning

Before COVID-19, the Southeast Diabetes Faith Initiative held 37 weekly face-to-face classes in five states. 85% of these classes were held at local churches. However, as a result of the stay at home orders, the research-based program focusing on healthy eating and physical activity needed to shift to a virtual delivery system so that learning could continue.

Research shows that online learning can help increase the retention of information. Nearly 450 participants embraced and adjusted to the “new normal” despite the varying comfort levels in using digital technology. “The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a shift in how we learn and communicate,” said Tanya Henderson, SDFI Program Manager. “We had a sudden shift away from classroom instruction, and overall it has been well received.”

Transitioning to a distance-learning format has allowed The Balm In Gilead to continue providing a valuable service to communities that are more vulnerable to Type 2 diabetes. “COVID-19 has disproportionately affected the African American community,” Pamela Price, Deputy Director of The Balm In Gilead. “Scientific lifestyle changing programs like the Southeast Diabetes Faith Initiative culturally tailor activities and messaging to help reduce the long-term burden of diabetes on communities of color.”

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognized four out of five Southeast Diabetes Faith Initiative state organizations for full or preliminary recognition. This means that programs offered through SDFI demonstrate the effectiveness and achievements on the scale of national performance criteria and standards. The national recognition allows SDFI to serve more Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries through the covered health benefit of Diabetes Prevention Programs (DPP). “We’ve worked very hard to achieve this recognition. Preventing Type 2 diabetes is paramount for saving lives,” exclaimed Henderson.

The accomplishments achieved by the Southeast Diabetes Faith Initiative in Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama have led to the expansion of the program into Mississippi.

“The Balm In Gilead hopes that as more learn about the Southeast Diabetes Faith Initiative, they will want to participate and help improve the overall quality of life for African Americans and other minorities through prayer, education, advocacy, and healing,” said Price.

As distance learning becomes the new norm, classes will continue. “We are excited to announce that we are offering new distance learning programs starting this Fall and continuing with hybrid learning in Spring 2021, ” said Price.

For more information on the Southeast Diabetes Faith Initiative, visit