Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Cultural Inclusion Model for Twelve Step

Third Traditions Foundation

"Noting that 'we were biased then,' Oscar recalled the April 1945 Cleveland Bulletin (an A. A. newsletter), which said, 'We whites, if we preach brotherly love, must practice it. And should a Negro appeal to us for help and guidance, it is our Christian duty to give the best that is in us, recognizing that a human soul is given into our hands to help or destroy.'" Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers, page 248 Minorities within AA gain acceptance

Cultural Inclusion Model for Twelve Step Fellowships


There appear to be cultural barriers that inhibit people of color from investing in Twelve Step groups[1] but leaders of these organizations feel that to validate such racial disparity would divert attention from members’ recovery. Decision makers of one organization still hold this view even though its charter states, “to promote the public health, to work with and furnish charitable and cultural assistance to those with problems of obesity.”

Since their inception more than forty years ago very few of these groups attract and retain a substantial portion of black, Hispanics or other people of color while these members of these groups suffer the most from addictive diseases.
For example, Alcoholics Anonymous reports 3.2 percentage black memberships[2] even though the fellowship has been around for more than seventy-one years and interviews with blacks indicate[3] that they prefer Narcotics Anonymous even if alcohol is their primary addiction. AA white members’ experience seems to aid them in getting back to better health but alienates blacks. Likewise, OA though almost a half-century old only has about 3.2[4] percentage black membership, while seventy-nine percent of black Americans are overweight or obese.

When leaders who are apprehensive about studies of racial disparities within their fellowships are coaxed into viewing such discussion as vital to their organizations’ continued success, the benefits to public health could be enormous.[5]

Benefits to Public Health

Mainstream meetings never fair as well but special focus groups attract and retain people of color. Outreach efforts by a Black focus OA groups in the Bay Area has brought tremendous growth over the last eleven years where there had been none tripling African American participation. Members’ reported weight loss reversed degenerative disease such as hypertension, diabetes through a peer-to-peer no cost program.[6]


Implement this project by surveying leaders of three major fellowships to elicit their perception of the organization’s Cultural Aptitude then compare their perception with the perception of people of color who have attended meetings of these three organizations, participated in the service structure of the organizations. After the survey is complete, develop a Cultural Inclusion model based on questionnaire responses that optimizes success of support groups and further aids public health.


Twelve Step Fellowships are widely recommended in conjunction with other treatment programs but retain very few people of color however these fellowships can increase participation of minorities with the application of Cultural Inclusion and thus impact the nation’s morbidity rates by offering successful no cost peer-to-peer treatment programs.


[1] There are more than three well known Twelve Step Fellowships[1] that have been around for more than four decades i.e., Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), founded in 1935 in Akron, OH, USA, Narcotics Anonymous (NA), founded in Los Angeles, in the late fifties, and Overeaters Anonymous (OA), founded 1960 in Los Angeles, CA.
[2] 2004 Alcoholics Anonymous Membership Survey

[3] Boston Globe Article, Tara Harden Smith, December 2001

[4] By Personal Observation OA conventions in 2003, 2004, 2005

[5]Forty-six percent of Overeaters Anonymous members report improvement in eating behaviors and fifty-six reports that the food obsession has been lifted, OA 2002 Membership Survey.

[6] Personal interview with Ebony OA Members, black focus OA group

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