Program offering diabetes exams at schools

Mar 11, 2014 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The Northern Arapaho Diabetes Awareness Program is preparing for its Child Health Measures project, which will begin soon in Fremont County schools.

Students in grades K-12 can participate in the diabetes health exam after receiving parental consent. Outreach field workers Darrah Joseph and Donelle Warren urge parents to allow the exam that will help identify and improve any health concerns associated with childhood obesity, heart disease, diabetes and asthma.

Health measures

NADAP staff will have set dates to visit schools both on and off the reservation with the intent of covering a majority of the American Indian population. Booths will be set up in gymnasiums, and classrooms will be escorted at specific times to get a quick exam and take a survey. NADAP staff will measure height, weight, waist and hip circumference, blood pressure, blood sugar, oxygen/pulse and presence of acanthosis.

Acanthosis is a skin disorder that most often is related to obesity and appears as a darkening of the skin mainly in body folds and creases, such as the neck, fingers or armpits.

"A child with ancanthosis is more likely to get Type II diabetes," said program director Bernadette Spoonhunter. "If we can catch that at an early age then something can be done about it."

CHM is in its fifth year, she added, and has continued to identify children who are at risk.

Students in grades 5-8 will be given a survey by a project interviewer. The form will includes questions about physical activity, water intake, and time spent in front of a TV or computer screen. Students in grades 9-12 will be able to take the surveys home. Other survey questions address family history and diet.

Health measurements also can be taken during parent teacher conferences, depending on the school's schedule. Some sessions may also involve traditional games to encourage exercise or critical thinking. Upon parental approval, students found to be at risk of diabetes can participate in a body composition analysis that is done by NADAP as well.

There are no needles involved during the exam process.

Report card

All data accumulated will be sent to the Rocky Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center and be compiled into charts to show a general summary of the findings, Joseph said. Most importantly, parents will receive a "Child Health Measurement Report Card" to notify them of the results.

Each year the exam is done, parents get an updated report card. If the measurement screening finds a potential abnormal measure, parents will be notified via a letter to encourage a follow-up with a health care provider.

Community awareness

Joseph said NADAP has a new team that has received the appropriate training and is expanding its outreach services on the reservation. The project's mission is to inform the community about diabetes and help identify available resources.

"I don't think people are taking it too serious until it's too late," Joseph said, regarding diabetes statistics among the American Indian population.

Staff will follow up with families throughout the year to make sure parents know what to do or where to go for their diabetic concerns.

"We're trying to be more proactive with parents and follow up with information," Warren said.


NADAP staff hopes to confirm visits with schools in Arapahoe, Ethete, St. Stephen's and Riverton. These exams have been done in past years but few students participated because of a lack of parental consent or knowledge of the project, Joseph said.

The CHM project is sponsored by the Montana Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council in collaboration with the Rocky Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center, through funds from Indian Health Services. Collaboration is done with the Northern Arapaho Diabetes Prevention program, Northern Arapaho Tribal Health Department, Public Health Nurses, Community Health Representatives, Tribal Housing, Environmental Health and parents and teachers. Any personal information will be kept confidential.

Healthy lifestyle

The diabetes awareness program receives funding from an annual grant by the Special Diabetes Program for Indians through Indian Health Services, Spoonhunter said. This year's focus is physical activity and has kicked off with a lifestyle balance program that is combined with free access of the fitness centers at Blue Sky Hall in Ethete and Great Plains Hall in Arapahoe.

Spoonhunter said last year's programs focused on a"Diabetes Soft Management Education" initiative but the information provided about diabetes to the community is still being done. The physical activity initiative ties into diabetes prevention and management, she said.

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