Type 2 Diabetes is one of the greatest health risks in the Native American community. Therefore it is important not only to work with patients on how to live with diabetes, but also to help those who are dangerously close to having the disease.
For the past 15 years, the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic (OKCIC) has run a nonprofit wellness program—BRAID (Being Responsible American Indians with Diabetes)—that has won many accolades from the American Diabetes Association, including the John Pipe Voices for Change Award for advocacy.
BRAID began as a small support-group and received funding through a federal Special Diabetes Program for Indians grant. Now, the nonprofit program has an average of 100 participants for their quarterly evening programs, according to Cathy Waller, Cherokee, OKCIC certified diabetes educator. BRAID activities include nutrition counseling, lifestyle coaching, exercise programs and cooking classes.
Those participants are patients diagnosed with diabetes by OKCIC physicians. A1C is a two- or three-month average for adults to measure the amount of glucose that binds to hemoglobin in the blood. BRAID members set personal goals to maintain an A1C count of 6.5 percent through diet and exercise. In 1998, just 32 percent of the OKCIC patients had an A1C less than seven percent. By 2011, the number of patients with an A1C of less than seven percent was up to 56 percent of patients.
In order to help those who have prediabetes, OKCIC has the STAR program—Steps To Achieve Results. This 16-week program includes counseling with an assigned lifestyle coach, use of the OKCIC Wellness Center, working with OKCIC personal trainers, and learning how to prepare and eat healthier foods.
For the Native people in the Oklahoma City area who would like to be a part of these programs, the best way to begin is to have a chart on file at OKCIC, Waller said.