Helen Tootoosis is trying to bridge the gap between Indigenous culture and living with diabetes.
“My late husband had diabetes, a bunch of my siblings do, my mother had it, I have it,” Tootoosis said. “It’s running rampant in all First Nations communities.”
Diabetes Canada says more than 100,000 people have been diagnosed with Diabetes in Saskatchewan, while another 173,000 have pre-diabetes. An estimated 43,000 have not been diagnosed.
Between genetic and environmental factors, Aboriginal people are disproportionately affected by the disease.
“They are three to five times more at risk for diabetes than the general population,” Diabetes Canada regional director Brie Hnetka said. “Right now in indigenous communities when a child is born, they have an 80-95 per cent chance risk of developing type two diabetes.”
That’s why Tootoosis started a diabetes ambassador training program geared towards Indigenous people.
The day-long course includes information about changing technology, elder’s perspectives, embracing traditional and western medicine, and healthy eating.
“What I’m working towards is trying to promote more traditional eating, healthier eating, trying to bring back traditional food knowledge of the foods we used to eat,” chef and speaker Kirk Ermine explained.
The Sturgeon Lake man went into a diabetic coma 17 years ago while attending a family wedding. The scary episode prompted him to pursue a career as a chef, and teach others about how to embrace historically significant foods.
“That’s what I believe has led us to diabetes- the introduction to dairy products, processed foods, and gluten-rich foods. Traditionally, our people didn’t eat gluten and we didn’t have many dairy products in our diet,” he added.
At the end of the day, participants will return to their communities across the province to pass on their knowledge and implement new supports and programs.
More than 50 people traveled to Regina and Saskatoon to take part in two sessions this week.
“We do a lot of traditional foods,” Standing Buffalo Dakota First Nations’ Maureen Yuzicappi said. “We practice our culture along with the western way. They go hand in hand because in this day and age it’s difficult to go one way without the other.”
While there are still barriers remaining, participants say it’s an empowering step forward to halting the diabetes epidemic on the province’s First Nations.
One in seven Americans has diabetes, with many being unaware, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its key findings include:
- In 2013–2016, the prevalence of total diabetes was 14.0%; the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes was 9.7%; and the prevalence of undiagnosed diabetes was 4.3%, among U.S. adults.
- The prevalence of total diabetes was higher among men at 15.9% than among women at 12.2%.
- The prevalence of total, diagnosed, and undiagnosed diabetes all increased with age.
“Diabetes remains a chronic health problem in this country, affecting some 30 million people,” said lead researcher Mark Eberhardt. An aging population and increasing obesity are both causes.
The study found that overweight people are more likely to develop diabetes. 12% of overweight adults and 21% of obese adults had diabetes, compared to only 6% of underweight or normal-weight adults.
“Diabetes is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the U.S. It can be present but undiagnosed, meaning that a person can have diabetes but not report having ever been told by a doctor or health professional that they have the condition. Type 2 diabetes can progress over an extended time period with gradual, often unnoticed, changes occurring before diagnosis. If left unmanaged, diabetes may contribute to serious health outcomes including neuropathy, nephropathy, retinopathy, coronary artery disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.”
Although this is not good news for the population in general, it does emphasize the need for qualified diabetes educators in every community.
Type 2 diabetes is treated too aggressively in a substantial proportion of older people, with probable harmful consequences, a new analysis suggests.
The benefits of tight glycemic control haven’t been proven in older adults with a long-duration of type 2 diabetes and vascular complications. Moreover, for many with shorter life expectancy, any benefit could be outweighed by the risk of hypoglycemia.
For that reason, guidelines from several professional societies have advised less-strict glycemic targets for older adults.
This is a great article from The Conversation, a journal with academic rigour, showing the benefits of traditional storytelling in dealing with diabetes in First Nations’ communities.
Like many Indigenous groups around the world, the James Bay Cree of northern Québec have a disproportionately high rate of diabetes. They’re facing it down with a decidedly Indigenous solution: A Talking Circle in print.
The December 2017 issue of Maclean’s, Canada’s national news magazine, has a feature article on diabetes on page 90. Barbara King Hooper contributed to Diabetes Management? There’s an App for That. Read how mobile apps for diabetes are rapidly changing how people of all ages interact with their diabetes, improving personal outcomes.