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Many challenges, especially related to weight loss, are made easier with support from friends and family. Researchers at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention are testing to see whether a PAL can help diabetes patients lose weight and manage their disease.

The Partners in Lifestyle Support (PALS) project is a family-based diabetes self-management program for African American adults with type 2 diabetes who want to lose weight. Each participant is paired with a family member that does not have diabetes and together, work towards weight loss and a healthier lifestyle.

“We have really good evidence that family-based approaches work well when children have diabetes, but we really don’t know how well a family-based approach would work when adults are involved,” said Carmen Samuel-Hodge, PhD the principal investigator of the study and faculty in the department of nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She added that PALS would be the first to try a family-based program in adults.

African Americans are 1.8 times more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites and one in every four African American women over the age of 55 lives with diabetes. Samuel-Hodge has worked on diabetes research since the beginning of her career, including diabetes programs based in communities and churches.

“African American women have lots of work to do in figuring out how to manage their weight while dealing with all the other things that are important in their lives,” said Samuel-Hodge. “The average adult African American woman is carrying around excessive weight that comes with a health cost.  The good news is that losing only a small portion of this excess weight (e.g., about 10-20 pounds if you weigh 200 lbs.) comes with great health benefits, especially in the case of diabetes.”

The study is composed of two groups. The first will take part in the family-based intervention for six months and the second will take place over the course of two months. Members in each group will participate in weekly group sessions and receive the benefits of the weight loss program.

Up to 80 men and women will be enrolled in the study, along with their family member PAL. The ideal candidates will be African American adults with diabetes who are motivated to take action about their weight in order to better manage diabetes.

“We’re looking for people with diabetes who believe that taking this step with a family member is the best path to success,” said Samuel-Hodge.

If you and a family member would like to be a part of the study, please e-mail Carmen Samuel-Hodge at, Phone:  (919) 966-0360 or Toll Free 877-344-1820.

Kasey Rankin, Communications Intern

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