Thirty-five youngsters from Seminole and Hughes Counties, all members of the Seminole Nation, learned about diabetes prevention and overall healthy living at a camp July 19-23 at East Central University.
"When the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma received the funding for the Special Diabetes Program for Indians, one of the main things we wanted to do was provide preventive education for the youth within our service area (Seminole and Hughes Counties) who have a family member who has diabetes, pre-diabetes, or high risk for diabetes," said Dewayne A. Tiger, director of the Seminole Nation Diabetes Program.
Members of the Seminole Nation participating in a diabetes camp at East Central University gather on the steps of Science Hall with ECU President John Hargrave (front row, fourth from left). Youngsters from 10 to 17 from Seminole and Hughes Counties learned ways to prevent diabetes and make good choices for overall healthy living. They learned how to cook healthy foods, attended classes and stayed active by swimming and playing a variety of games.
"Our overall mission is to get these kids to move and increase their overall daily activity levels and to start to make healthier choices in their overall lives," he said.
Tiger said the ECU campus provided the "perfect environment" for the youth to be away from home so they could be immersed in a controlled, planned environment. Because many of the campers had never been on a college campus, one of the goals was to introduce them to campus life and to start thinking about college.
"Diabetes is so prevalent with Native Americans," said Andrea Beck, the Seminole Nation Diabetes Program's dietitian. "The children are more at risk of developing type II diabetes when their parents already have it. My motto is, I would rather prevent it than manage it."
The campers were from 10 to 17 years old, and many of their parents are the Diabetes Team's clients, Beck said.
"The objective of the camp was to teach the kids about diabetes prevention and overall healthy living," she explained. "Every day the kids went to cooking classes where they learned how to cook healthy and about things they can do in the kitchen."
Daily one-hour classes included such topics as diabetes risk factors, calorie-rich and processed foods and domestic violence in teen dating.
Outside activities were held every morning. The campers went to Wintersmith Park to swim and had free time to play pool, shuffle board, ping pong, basketball or board games. Different activities were planned each night. On the last day they were divided into four groups for a challenge bowl. The group that knew the most answers won a prize.
"The Seminole Nation Diabetes team consider ourselves to be 'wellness coaches' to guide the youth on the path to longer, healthier lives," Tiger said. "When each child leaves the camp they are beginning the path to provide education for their families and their future generations."
A three-month follow-up with the campers and their families will determine what other avenues they would like to experience, Tiger said. Campers and their families will meet with the program's nurse, dietitian and exercise specialist to provide the next level of information for the families until the next camp next summer.
"East Central University has enabled this Diabetes Program to provide an experience for our native youth that they will never forget," Tiger said.
# # #