The American Diabetes Association® (ADA) released its 2023 Research Report, highlighting investments in advancing diabetes research and clinical practice. ADA research grants focus on innovative projects with high impact and help researchers establish collaborative networks to move their innovations into the hands of people living with diabetes.

The annual research report features the University of Kentucky’s Brittany Smalls, PhD, as a cover story. Smalls is an associate professor and the Dr. Claire Louise Caudill Professor in Family Medicine in the UK College of Medicine’s Department of Family and Community Medicine.

Her work is devoted to helping rural Kentuckians — specifically in Appalachia — better manage their diabetes. In that region it is common to see intergenerational households as large extended families often live together in the same home or throughout shared pieces of land. These families share everything from living spaces, meals, household chores, caregiving and more.

Another aspect of this region that plays into Smalls’ work is that families who call it home share a disproportionately high risk for type 2 diabetes. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes reaches 23% in Kentucky’s most rural counties. That is more than twice the state average. 

Throughout her career of helping older adults with type 2 diabetes, Smalls quickly noticed that the adult children and grandchildren of those she worked with could also benefit from her research. 

Thanks to an award from the ADA, Smalls will expand her focus from older adults with type 2 diabetes to entire families living with or who are at risk for the disease. 

“By tapping into tightknit family units, we can start to shift how people think about their health and how they think about each other,” said Smalls. 

The cover story from the ADA’s report details Smalls’ work resulting from the award: “She is piloting a health intervention that leverages social support within family units to promote nutrition and physical activity, which are key to mitigating obesity and type 2 diabetes. Each participating family will receive a tailored six-month lifestyle plan. Only one adult needs a type 2 diabetes diagnosis for a household to be eligible, and a dietitian will engage them in medical nutrition therapy based on available foods. Participating families will receive ADA-backed recommendations for physical activity based on family members’ physical ability.” 

Since 1952, the ADA has had a strong commitment to progressing the fight against diabetes by awarding more than $955 million dollars to researchers at leading institutions across the United States.

“Research at the ADA is the engine that drives clinical advances by catapulting them into practice. 2023 has brought many prominent achievements. We are incredibly proud of our legacy of highlighting science and eager to build on this research to move even closer to a world free of diabetes and all its burdens,” said Charles “Chuck” Henderson, the ADA’s chief executive officer.

About the American Diabetes Association
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is the nation’s leading voluntary health organization fighting to bend the curve on the diabetes epidemic and help people living with diabetes thrive. For 83 years, the ADA has driven discovery and research to treat, manage, and prevent diabetes while working relentlessly for a cure. Through advocacy, program development, and education we aim to improve the quality of life for the over 136 million Americans living with diabetes or prediabetes. Diabetes has brought us together. What we do next will make us Connected for Life®. To learn more or to get involved, visit us at or call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383). Join the fight with us on Facebook (American Diabetes Association), Spanish Facebook (Asociación Americana de la Diabetes), LinkedIn (American Diabetes Association), Twitter (@AmDiabetesAssn), and Instagram (@AmDiabetesAssn).