February 22, 2016
EAGLE BUTTE, SOUTH DAKOTA — February is “Heart Health Month” at the Cheyenne River Youth Project®, and the 27-year-old, not-for-profit youth organization’s staff has been hard at work organizing youth programming that has a special focus on diabetes prevention. It’s a cause close to staff members’ hearts, as the numbers are truly frightening; diabetes has reached epidemic proportions.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Service, American Indians and Alaska Natives are 2.2 times more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites. Thirty percent of the indigenous population in this country has pre-diabetes, and of those who already have it, 95 percent have type 2 diabetes.
What’s even more frightening: There was a 68 percent increase in diabetes from 1994 to 2004 among native youth ages 15 to 19. Half of Cheyenne River’s population is under 18, and 30 to 40 percent of those young people have or are at risk for developing diabetes.
“This is a huge issue for us,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “The children born here since 2000 have a life expectancy that’s shorter than their parents’ or grandparents.’ Many of these kids already have health issues, some as young as 8 to 10 years old.”
While this is a health disaster for native communities, most of the risk factors are socio-cultural and environmental. That means diabetes is preventable.
“Awareness and education are critical,” said Tammy Eagle Hunter, CRYP’s youth programs director. “As adults, we need to give our children direction on how to nourish their bodies, how to stay strong and how to be healthy. Our entire community needs to encourage them to get outside, to exercise, to work in a garden and to eat fresh, whole, unprocessed foods — and we need to set a positive example for them.”
February’s programming is geared toward providing this sort of guidance. On February 17, CRYP hosted a Diabetes Education Cooking Class, featuring a vegetable frittata and fruit salad and incorporating blood pressure checks. CRYP also has opened its fitness center twice per week, and it’s offering a special edition of Midnight Basketball.
“In conjunction with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s Youth Diabetes Prevention Program, we’ve been taking blood pressure and assessing BMIs during those scheduled open hours,” Eagle Hunter said. “We’re also hosting a Walking Challenge, in which the teens and younger children must walk or run 1 mile before they can enjoy our regular open programming.”
Three years ago, CRYP unveiled a groundbreaking, multimedia youth diabetes prevention campaign, which incorporates the half-hour “Diabetes Is Not Our Way” documentary, 10 “Indigenous Perspectives” videos and several public service announcements intended for radio, TV and Internet distribution. The videos are available for viewing on CRYP’s YouTube Channel.
“The multimedia campaign really was a collaborative effort between CRYP, Diabetes Action Research (DARE) and the Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples,” Garreau said. “We’re grateful for their support, and the ongoing youth diabetes prevention support provided by DARE as we forge ahead with our youth programming. We recognize that we cannot give our children achieve the vibrant, secure future they deserve if they face a life-threatening health crisis.”
CRYP remains committed to holistic wellness and diabetes prevention initiatives in 2016 and beyond. Ann Maher, diabetes prevention specialist, provides valuable expertise and services at the youth project’s East Lincoln Street campus.
To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its programs, and for information about making donations and volunteering, call (605) 964-8200 or visitwww.lakotayouth.org<http://www.lakotayouth.org>. And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.