Diabetes Forecast

Native American Volunteers Recognized

John Pipe award winners carry on a tradition of community health

Native American health leaders are recognized at the John Pipe Voices for Change Awards.

John Pipe was a member of the Assiniboine Sioux tribe from Wolf Point, Mont., and a dedicated diabetes advocate whose work with the American Diabetes Association reached from people in his own tribe to Washington, D.C. Awards established in his name honor people who carry on his mission of diabetes health and education in Native American communities. The John Pipe Voices for Change Awards, given by the American Diabetes Association Awakening the Spirit subcommittee, honor the people and organizations that provide diabetes care in the tradition of their namesake.

All honorees are grant recipients in the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI), a federal grant program established by Congress in 1997. The grants are helpful because diabetes disproportionately affects Native Americans, says Shondra McCage, MPH, chair of the Awakening the Spirit subcommittee. "We know that American Indians are twice as likely to develop or have a diagnosis of diabetes compared to non-Indians," she says. "We wanted to find a way to honor those that have SDPI programs and are doing things [to help] in the community."

This year's awardees are:

  • BRAID—Being Responsible American Indians with Diabetes, Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, for Advocacy
  • Cherokee Nation Diabetes Program, Cherokee Nation Health Services, for Outcomes
  • Healthy O'odham Promotion Program, Tohono O'odham Nation, for Outcomes and Innovation

BRAID is a community education program that invites people with diabetes and their loved ones to learn more about the disease through classes, demonstrations, and "alumni" events designed to continue community education about diabetes, says Dan Molina, MD, diabetes project director for BRAID. The program re-creates the cultural meeting place, an important part of American Indian traditions, in an urban setting. "We have a real attachment to folks that are maybe the less traditional Native Americans, who maybe lost their cultural ties," Molina says. "We try to re-create that."

The Cherokee Nation Diabetes Program has graduated more than 1,100 people since 2004. Program participants work with certified diabetes educators, dietitians, and peers to learn about healthy lifestyle changes. The program's outcomes speak for themselves, says Teresa Chaudoin, MPH, MA, director of the program: Average A1C scores dropped by more than 1 percentage point after completion of the program, and blood pressure and cholesterol levels were measurably better among participants. "Over the years, people have lost really large amounts of weight, and it has had not just a positive effect on the person with diabetes but really their whole family," Chaudoin says. "The whole family took what they learned [in] the class and changed a lot of their eating habits and got physically active together."

The Healthy O'odham Promotion Program (HOPP) works to bring the Diabetes Education in Tribal Schools Curriculum into Bureau of Indian Education schools to promote healthy living and give young students healthy tools for life. Ned Norris, Jr., the program's chairman, says the collaboration between schools and HOPP shows how diabetes education and prevention efforts can be delivered in innovative ways in the community.

All the programs' staff members were overwhelmed by being named John Pipe award winners, Molina says. "Receiving that award specifically, named after someone who's been such an advocate, it's one of the best honors that we could receive," he says. "It validates the work that we do day in and day out."



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