W2 Reflection: Diabetes Among Native Americans

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My mother is Native American and my father is white, but I identify mainly as Native American.  I was raised in the Native community and am a tribal member of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.  My mother is also a nurse at the Gun Lake Tribe and they have monthly diabetes support group meetings which is why I chose diabetes prevalence among Natives.  Diabetes is the number one health issue affecting Natives across the nation.

Diabetes has been a serious health issue among the Native American Indian population.  This has been a health disparity since their diet changed from organic hunter gatherer diet to a highly processed diet.  This change in diet lead to high rates in diabetes, overweight/obesity, and heart disease because of the high fat and sugar contents of their diets.  When Natives were placed onto reservations they could no longer continue their traditional hunter gatherer diets.  Many Natives living on reservations lived in poverty and didn’t have to means to get and consume healthy foods.  In today’s society, hectic and fast paced, many people, many Natives, consume a lot of processed foods, fast food, and junk foods which has adverse effects on their metabolic process.

I think that diabetes prevention among Natives is important because more and more Native youth and adolescences are being diagnosed with diabetes I.  Diabetes prevalence in Natives is due to several determinants like socioeconomic, genetic, and social.  Many natives still live in poverty, lower class system, even with per capita, which prevents them from being able to get the better nutritional foods and the education or knowledge of a nutritional diet.  Also, just like everybody else living in today’s society, fast foods and junk food is easily accessible and cheap.  From a genetic stand point, diabetes I can be genetic due to pancreas not functioning correctly.  Diabetes type II risks can increase if family members also have it.  Diabetes type II has spiked in recent years and is mainly due to modern diets of bad, unhealthy foods and not enough exercise both influenced by socioeconomics and hectic social lifestyles.

Buxton, Rachel, “Diabetes No. 1 health problem among Native Americans”, Seminole Tribune 24 Feb 2012: 13A. accessed July 15, 2016, http://search.proquest.com.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/docview/963551347/8401A6A2CE274910PQ/5?accountid=12598

American Diabetes Association, Last Edited April 1, 2016.  http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/?referrer=http://www.bing.com/search?q=heart%20disease%20statistics%20by%20ethnicity&qs=RI&pq=heart%20disease%20statistics%20ethni&sc=1-30&sp=1&cvid=46567746093E4888BC5F642EBC33C0A4&FORM=QBRE&ghc=1

4 thoughts on “W2 Reflection: Diabetes Among Native Americans

  1. I found your post on the relationship between diabetes and Native Americans to be very interesting. I never knew that the rate was higher among them, than any other ethnic group. As for your explanation of the relationship between race, genetics, and health, I didn’t see you compare them very much, however I did like how you incorporated those three topics into how it compares with diabetes in the Native American community. I would never have considered it to be a socioeconomic problem; I would have assumed it to be genetic. But like you had said Type I Diabetes can be genetic, while Type II is more dependent on social lifestyles. I also would have never considered the extreme shift from ‘Hunting and Gathering’ to processed fats and sugars to be that much of a problem, but as you stated the change in social lifestyles after being placed on reservations leaves the culture with no choice.

    After this week I think that racial categories in clinical studies can be useful, but not as useful as socioeconomic categories. We’ve grown up thinking that people are just born the way they are, and can’t change much about it. However, we’ve learned that isn’t always true. These different races, and their socioeconomic status, tell us a lot about their health, and can help us solve problems. I think a better way of talking about racialized health disparities is by making sure everyone recognizes that there is a disparity among races, and to educate people on these disparities. If no one can recognize, and acknowledge a problem, it will never be solved.

  2. Even though I grew up with a diabetic mother (type 1), I read your post as well as the lecture presentations with great interest. I know what it’s like to see the daily struggle in managing blood sugar and have things go awry when there’s a slight lapse in the routine. I am curious if the Native Americans around the great lakes also poses the thrifty gene described in the lectures. You described everything all too well as a sort of “perfect storm” resulting in the frequency of diabetes. I think it’s important for anyone providing care to recognize their vulnerability to diabetes as a result of your aforementioned factors. I think talks need to open up as to the best ways to help those in this sort of situation, perhaps using the Pima as an example to allow the Native Americans here to return to somewhat of a lifestyle they used to have. Even though the video “Bad Sugar” in the lectures described the difficulties in doing this because of no financial benefit, something needs to be done. Whether it’s access to more healthier food, opening up extended hunting and fishing seasons, agricultural assistance or even just increased funding from the government to help pull those affected out of poverty. Anything will help.

  3. Hi Jennifer!

    I found your post on Diabetes among Native Americans to be incredibly fascinating. Similar to the Pima Indians, a large variety of socioeconomic factors contribute to the prevalence of this disease among these communities. They are a strong example of the impact of environment on health, as you discussed in your post. Their forced move onto reservations and away from their traditional lifestyle has caused changes in their livelihood and subsequently, their health. Strides should be taken to help improve access to healthier foods and lifestyles for Native Americans.

    Racial categories in health are a social construct and do not hold much weight when talking about health. It can be applicable to communities within which similar lifestyles and environmental concerns exist, allowing for blanket statements regarding general health. However, no two people are the same, so it is not truly logical to think that applying a broad umbrella over an entire race would be an effective way to look at health. The case with Native Americans and Diabetes is a good example of this as their health is dependant, like the rest of us, on our lifestyle, environment, and habits. It would be better to examine living conditions and other external factors that someone may be exposed to and then move onto their genetic makeup, which excludes race, to conduct clinical studies. The society in which we live is constantly trying to apply racial divisions to situations where there is no basis nor a need to have them. I believe that it would be better to categorize health disparities without racial identifiers as stereotypes and stigmas follow behind. It offers a simple way to group people together and allows the true problems that impact health to fall behind.

  4. I think you used a lot of culture ecology to determine the relationship between race, genetic and health because you talk about how the change in other cultures and foods affected the health of the natives. I in it’s interesting that you used the lifestyle and foods the we eat and have today which are quick and easy go to because is so important. I also like that you talk about how the difference in the early diet plan to now and how now junk food, fast food has us around its finger even though it does taste delicious its less nutrition.
    Racialized health disparities helps figure out how much of that race or ethnicity has suffered through a particular diseases and how can that statics help us dictated how many people from a particular race might have that diseases and how it is preventable. Race criteria help us differed all the races to find the chances of getting that disease. When a patient comes into the hospital with common symptoms of that diseases, the statistics will help identify race and the chances of patient getting that diseases. When the Statistics are publish it will educate the common population to understand their chance of getting that diseases and ways they prevent it.

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