The Native American Research and Training Center held its annual Native American Youth Diabetes Camp during the last week of May. About 30 youth participated in this year’s camp, which was held at Whispering Pines near Prescott; 18 of those youth were from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the other 12 were from the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Tucson, the White Mountain Apache Tribe and Guadalupe. The youth spent three nights and four days learning how to prevent type 2 diabetes and how to manage it if they already have it.
Upon arriving, the kids were given a health assessment that included a weigh-in, blood-pressure check and a photo. The health assessment was to demonstrate to the youth that the meals and activities they would take part in during the camp would help them lose weight, which is one of the key factors to preventing type 2 diabetes.
On the first night, the kids played ice-breaker games and ate their first meal together.
The second day of camp was a full day of activities, but before they started their day each camper had a fasting glucose check. Then they were assigned to participate in an hour-long workout, either Zumba, “Boot Camp” or jogging.
After breakfast the youth participated in an activity to design their own T-shirt and learned what types of foods to eat if you have diabetes or are at risk of developing it. They gathered together to watch three short videos about what diabetes does to the body and were quizzed to see what they learned.
After lunch they continued on with their activities, playing Food Pyramid bingo and learning more about the effects of diabetes.
Physical activities were taught by Salt River Fitness Center Instructor Rachel Seepie, and on the second evening motivational speaker Robert Johnston led the kids in a series of games and traditional stories.
On the third day, the highlight was a trip to Slide Rock State Park for a day swimming. After returning, they had dinner and participated in a Zumba party.
On the last day the youth took one final hike for their morning physical activity. Then the campers completed a final weigh-in and blood-pressure check before cleaning up their cabins and heading back home.
“Youth can lose from five to 15 pounds during their time here,” explained Edna Helmuth, a pediatrician with SRPMIC Health and Human Services. “The activity and the amount of food they eat during their time here is what we should be doing each day to stay fit and healthy. The food was regular food; an example of what they ate for lunch was a grilled chicken breast on a whole-wheat bun, a handful of tortilla chips with salsa, a small apple, a popsicle, and a diet soda. It’s regular food, just a small portion and [using] healthy alternatives, such as the wheat bun and diet soda.”
“I decided to come because I wanted to learn to live a healthy lifestyle so that I can prevent diabetes. Both my parents have it, and one of my brothers and my grandparents have diabetes. I want to stay healthy and not have it,” said Suomva Puhuyesva, 13. “The things that I learned here at the camp are some of the major things diabetes can do to you and how it can afflict damage on your body.”
Puhuyesva plans on staying healthy by eating right and staying active. He recommends the camp to other Community youth.
“It’s a great experience to be out in nature and be away from all of the electronics, and it’s a way to meet new friends and stay active and healthy,” Puhuyesva said.
Seventeen-year-old Jessica Schurz has participated in the Diabetes Camp for the last three years; this year she was a junior counselor. She decided to participate because she has diabetes in her family; her mother developed gestational diabetes when she was pregnant with her, and Schurz knows she is at risk of getting it sometime in the future if she doesn’t educate herself on how to prevent it.
“I plan on eating healthier and exercising more. I have lost weight coming to the camp,” said Schurz. “I also want to educate my little sister and take some food recipes we eat here at the camp back home. The camp helps us learn, and our Community needs to learn about it, because a lot of us have diabetes. The camp is good for the younger generation to learn how to prevent it so they don’t have to go on dialysis and lose limbs.”