Four-time PGA Tour winner Notah Begay III, of the Navajo, San Felipe Pueblo and Isleta Pueblo tribes, encouraged American Indian youth to lead a healthy lifestyle and combat the growing epidemic of type 2 diabetes in Indian Country. “When our kids are dying at younger ages, we’re losing our future leaders and we’re also losing the carriers of the tradition and the culture who are supposed to push that forward for us,” Begay told the Associated Press.
On April 29, Begay returned to his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he spread his message on the airwaves. As a guest on Native America Calling, Begay discussed diabetes prevention on more than 67 tribal and public radio stations. He spoke in-studio with high school and college students from the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians of California, who participate in a leadership development program sponsored by the the NB3 Foundation, the nonprofit Begay created with his father to help fight childhood obesity and diabetes. The students are partaking in a journalism seminar intended to expose them to career opportunities in news and media, such as radio, television, magazine and social media platforms.
The San Manuel Tribe has a long-running relationship with Begay. In 2009, the tribe contributed to the NB3 Foundation Challenge to construct a $750,000 soccer field and community park in San Felipe Pueblo, the first recreational facility in the Pueblo’s history. This past weekend, the San Manuel students visited the new soccer field, attended the San Felipe Feast and documented the growing relationship between the tribes and their youth, according to the NB3 press release.
Begay told the students and Native America Calling listeners that his mother gives herself shots every morning, and his cousin lost her foot due to diabetes complications, reported the AP. “It’s not a beautiful outcome when you contract this,” he said during the radio program, the AP reported. “So the thing that drives me most is that it’s preventable. I couldn’t tell you how to prevent cancer. I can’t tell you how to prevent leukemia. Type 2 diabetes, I guarantee you I can help you prevent that.”
One the same day, the Stanford graduate and 38-year-old golfer hosted a one-hour segment broadcast live to 194 Bureau of Indian Education schools, in which he engaged students across the country in a live 30-minute discussion. The televised appearance was made possible by the Distance Learning Center satellite uplinks and partnerships with American Indian media organizations and the National Indian Programs Training Center. The segment was recorded for replay on future dates.
Begay emphasized the dire need for American Indian youth to reclaim their health for themselves and their people. “This is the first generation of Native American youth that may not outlive their parents due to childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes,” Begay said in a press release. “The epidemic of type 2 diabetes among our people is relative to the devastation that HIV/AIDS has caused in Africa. As Native peoples, we can’t afford to risk our future. We have to invest in the health, well being and leadership development of our Native youth.”
Begay referenced a recent study, which found that of 11,000 five-year-old children on 12 Indian reservations, 47 percent of boys and 41 percent of girls were overweight, and 24 percent of children surveyed were obese–twice the national average. Obesity is a leading cause of type 2 diabetes.
Since its creation in 2005, the NB3 Foundation has launched youth sports and wellness programs to reduce childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes, and to promote the leadership development of Native youth. Through its annual NB3 Foundation Challenge, the nonprofit has raised more than $2.4 million for golf and soccer programs, helping more than 3,850 Native youth participate in NB3 soccer and golf programs thus far. It has also built new facilities with the support of sponsoring tribes and private donors.
“The NB3 Foundation is part of a growing national movement to change the tide that is currently claiming the lives and futures of our most precious resource, our Native youth,” said NB3 Executive Director Crystal Echo Hawk. “They are our future leaders and cultural keepers, and we are launching a call to action for more tribes, organizations and communities to join us in this effort. It will take nothing short of a national movement in Indian Country to turn this around.”
Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health performed a series of studies on NB3 in 2010 and found its sports programming efforts are evidence-based and successful. NB3 programs “may be early predictors of reduced rates of obesity and diabetes as participating children age,” the findings stated.