|Teaching Tools Foster Science and Diabetes
Education in Native American Schools
Schools across the country now have free access to an innovative
set of teaching tools designed to increase the understanding of
science, health, and diabetes among American Indian and Alaska
Native students from kindergarten through the 12th grade. The comprehensive
new curriculum, called "Health is Life in Balance," is
being launched today at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the
American Indian in Washington, D.C.
The curriculum, a product of the Diabetes-based Science Education
in Tribal Schools (DETS) program, integrates science and Native
American traditions to educate students about science, diabetes
and its risk factors, and the importance of nutrition and physical
activity in maintaining health and balance in life. Applying an
inquiry-based approach to learning, the curriculum builds research
skills in observation, measurement, prediction, experimentation,
and communication. The project was developed in collaboration with
eight tribal colleges and universities and several Native American
organizations, with funding from the National Institutes of Health
(NIH), the Indian Health Service (IHS), and the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC).
Diabetes, a major cause of heart disease and stroke and the most
common cause in adults of blindness, kidney failure, and amputations
not related to trauma, now afflicts nearly 24 million people in
the United States. Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the
disease, is linked to older age, obesity, physical inactivity,
family history of the disease, and a history of gestational diabetes.
In the last 30 years, the incidence of type 2 diabetes has been
The rate of diagnosed diabetes in American Indians and Alaska
Natives is two to three times that of non-Hispanic whites. Nearly
17 percent of the total adult population served by the IHS has
diagnosed diabetes. After adjusting for population age differences,
diabetes rates vary from 6 percent among Alaska Native adults to
29 percent among American Indian adults in southern Arizona. Once
seen only in adults, type 2 diabetes is increasingly being diagnosed
in youth, especially in American Indian and other minority populations.
"Many people don't know that type 2 diabetes can often be
prevented by losing a modest amount of weight through diet and
regular physical activity," said Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D.,
director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and
Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), which contributed most of the funding
for the project. "We hope that this innovative, well tested
curriculum will reduce the rapidly rising incidence of type 2 diabetes
in Native Americans by teaching young people about diabetes prevention."
Alvin Windy Boy, former chair of the Tribal Leaders Diabetes Committee,
a group of elected tribal officials who advise the Indian Health
Service on diabetes topics, voiced the need for the curriculum
at a 2002 meeting of the Diabetes Mellitus Interagency Coordinating
Committee (DMICC), which coordinates federal research and activities
related to diabetes. The materials were designed and extensively
tested by staff in eight tribal colleges and universities, who
worked with 63 teachers and 1,500 students in schools across 14
states. "This curriculum is an important step in educating
American Indian and Alaska Native youth about preventing type 2
diabetes. The materials are understandable, tailored for students
at different grade levels, and make the concepts relevant to our
lives and families," said Windy Boy.
"We're pleased that our native youth will now be learning
how to prevent type 2 diabetes early in life and in their own schools.
We hope some of these students will be inspired to become health
professionals to help us in the fight against diabetes and other
chronic diseases," added Buford Rolin, who now chairs the
Tribal Leaders Diabetes Committee.
The curriculum units provide accurate, culturally tailored materials
and lesson plans for use in more than 1,000 tribal schools on reservations
and in public schools that have a sizable number of Native American
students. "This curriculum can change perceptions and attitudes
about diabetes and empower young people to adopt healthier lifestyles," said
Kelly Acton, M.D., M.P.H, director of the Division of Diabetes
Treatment and Prevention of the IHS, which will oversee distribution
To order printed copies or CDs of the curriculum free of charge,
see the IHS website http://www.ihs.gov/MedicalPrograms/Diabetes/.
"The DETS curriculum represents a true collaboration between
tribal colleges and universities and federal partners dedicated
to promoting health and preventing diabetes in future generations.
We applaud this partnership and collective commitment to the health
and wellness of American Indian and Alaska Natives," said
Ann Albright, Ph.D., Director, CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation.
CDC, through its Division of Diabetes Translation www.cdc.gov/diabetes,
funds 59 diabetes prevention and control programs across all states,
and U.S.-Affiliated territories and island jurisdictions, and 11
tribes and tribal organizations. The kindergarten through fourth
grade lessons in the DETS curriculum incorporate the four-book
Eagle Books series for children. The original art for the Eagle
Books is featured in an exhibition, "Through the Eyes of the
Eagle-Illustrating Healthy Living for Children," at the Smithsonian
Museum of the American Indian until January 4, 2009.
The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP), co-sponsored by
NIH and CDC, provides diabetes education to improve the treatment
and outcomes for people with diabetes, promote early diagnosis,
and prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. In its "Small
Steps. Big Rewards. Prevent Type 2 Diabetes" campaign, the
NDEP is reaching out to people at risk for type 2 diabetes with
the message that they have the power to turn the tide against this
disease. For more information about preventing type 2 diabetes,
The Indian Health Service is the primary source of health care
services to American Indians and Alaska Natives. The IHS provides
a comprehensive health service delivery system for approximately
1.9 million of the nation's estimated 3.3 million American Indians
and Alaska Natives. For more information, see www.ihs.gov.
The DETS program was also supported by the NIH Office of Science
Education, which coordinates science education activities for the
NIH and develops model science education programs for grades k
through 12 and the general public. For more information about OSE
and free educational resources at the NIH, see http://science.education.nih.gov.
NIDDK, part of the NIH, conducts and supports basic and clinical
research and research training on some of the most common, severe
and disabling conditions affecting Americans. The Institute's research
interests include diabetes and other endocrine and metabolic diseases;
digestive diseases, nutrition, and obesity; and kidney, urologic
and hematologic diseases. For more information, visit www.niddk.nih.gov.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers
and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic,
clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates
the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.
For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.