When Kelly Concho-Hayes, Navajo and Acoma, speaks to American Indians about preventing and managing type 2 diabetes, she emphasizes her heritage and talks about her family, including her husband Jeremy Hayes (Nambé Pueblo) and their two daughters. “I’ll speak in my language; I’ll dress in the traditional [attire] of my tribes,” said Concho-Hayes, 33, the Native American outreach manager for the American Diabetes Association for the Greater San Diego Area.
Since she joined the Association in October 2011, Concho-Hayes has reached all tribes in San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties. In San Diego County, there are 18 federally recognized tribes and more Indian reservations than any other U.S. county. “I am able to spread awareness, provide educational materials, help people living with type 2 diabetes, and speak with youth about preventing it,” Concho-Hayes said.
She also participates in social events throughout Southern California’s Indian country. “I’m attending conferences, wellness fairs, pow wows, Indian days—anything you can think of—diabetes cooking classes, diabetes clinics, urban Indian centers,” she said.
After she had only been on the job for a few months, the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians recognized Concho-Hayes and the American Diabetes Association for their efforts to promote health and education with a Yawa’ Award, presented to charities making a positive impact in California’s Inland Empire region and across the nation.
Now Concho-Hayes is solidifying partnerships between the Association and organizations that work primarily with Native Americans to form the American Diabetes Association’s first local Awakening the Spirit committee, made possible by a $25,000 grant in July from the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians. Awakening the Spirit: Pathways to Diabetes Prevention & Control is an Association national initiative “to encourage your spirit to fight diabetes, to make healthy food choices and be more active.”
While the Southern California committee is still coming together, Concho-Hayes was able to help create one component of the diabetes education project: a sampler of recipes using traditional foods, “like buffalo loaf, the no-fry frybread, and three sisters soup—all using vegetables traditional to our area and different tribes across the U.S.”
Concho-Hayes is always looking for advocates. “We are looking for volunteers to represent Awakening the Spirit to Native communities,” she said. Learn more at diabetes.org.