The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Health & Human Services (HHS) Spring 2015 Youth Wellness Program will begin on January 22, with sessions held at the HHS Conference Room, which is located above the Health Center. This is a place where youth can play games, exercise, and enjoy fun activities, all designed to help them learn how to be healthy.
Sessions take place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. every Thursday through April 2 (see sidebar for more information). All family members are encouraged to join in to help support the youth of the Community in an effort to build healthy habits that will lead them toward becoming healthy and productive adults.
In addition to challenging themselves and learning new strategies for staying healthy, participants have the opportunity to win prizes simply for attending the sessions. Margaret Fisher, RD, CDE, an HHS Certified Diabetes Educator and the class instructor, stated, “During last year’s sessions, the prizes included backpacks, barbecue sets, lunch bags, water bottles, vegetable steamers, notebooks, 4-in-1 exercise kits and more.”
The SRPMIC Youth Wellness Program began in 2012, with classes each year that are focused on youth wellness. This year will be no exception, only (the incentive prizes may be different), and the informational details will be presented in a fun manner.
As many in the Community know, the disease of diabetes is not only a national problem, but it is present in SRPMIC. About 24 million people in the United States have been told they have diabetes. Studies have cited and health organizations have reported Type 2 diabetes increases the risks for a person to encounter health conditions like coronary artery disease, nerve damage (especially in the feet), kidney disease and vision problems.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) reports, “Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for up to 95 percent of all diabetes cases, becomes more common with increasing age. The disease is strongly associated with obesity, inactivity, family history of diabetes, history of gestational diabetes, impaired glucose metabolism, and racial or ethnic background. The prevalence of diagnosed diabetes has more than doubled in the last 30 years, due in large part to the upsurge in obesity.”
Unfortunately, most Native American people either know someone with diabetes or they have firsthand experience with the illness of diabetes. It is well documented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Just 60 years ago, type 2 diabetes was rare in Native American communities. Today, it is a common and a serious condition among American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people, woven together with complex interactions that have environmental, sociological, and historical roots. During 1994–2004, the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes doubled among AI/AN adults aged 35 years or younger who are served by the Indian Health Service (IHS) and increased 68 percent among AI/AN youth aged 15 to 19 years. The risk of developing heart disease is nearly four times higher for American Indians and Alaska Natives with type 2 diabetes than for those without this disease.”
Closer to home, Fisher elaborated, “The last reported data from Phoenix Indian Medical Center (PIMC) provided some information, based only on the patients who receive services at PIMC or the Salt River IHS Health Clinic; the youngest youth in the Community diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is 7 years old.”
But while diabetes is a serious health issue on the Community, all is not lost. You see Community members working toward staying healthy in various ways, such as running for health and spiritual wellness, and you see the Community invest in strategies, such as the HHS Youth Wellness Program, that are geared toward the youth of the Community, to help with early detection and to provide prevention measures. The program is designed to help children maintain or increase healthy habits, understand important food facts and help them take steps to improve their overall well-being.
Many people, include Native Americans, are living with diabetes, and they are living healthier and living longer. By participating in the spring Youth Wellness Program sessions, the youth of the Community can contribute to the positive trend in taking control of diabetes.
To enroll in the Spring Youth Wellness Program, or for more information, call Margaret “Maggie” Fisher at (480) 362-6640.