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Cherokees Work Toward Weight Loss Goals to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

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The Cherokee Nation Diabetes Prevention Program (CNDPP), based in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, has serviced more than 10,000 people with diabetes since its inception in 2004.

The program offers a clinical component for diabetes patients, and a diabetes prevention program caters to those with prediabetes, offering 16-week type 2 diabetes prevention classes focused on nutrition, physical activity and healthy lifestyle changes like problem solving, talking back to negative thoughts and managing stress.

In each prevention group, the goal is for class participants to reach their seven percent weight loss goal. A life coach guides them in achieving and maintaining their ideal weight through ongoing activities, such as 30-minute group walks, Zumba, boot camps, trail hikes, booyah boxing, tai chi and weight-loss challenges. Participants also receive individual assistance in the form of personal training, referrals to dietitians, meal planning and motivational support. After successfully completing the program, participants continue to meet with their coaches to work on their personal goals.

In the past six years, 21 groups have been started in six counties in Oklahoma, and 187 of 247 (75.7 percent) of the people who signed up have stayed with the program, which surpasses the number of current participants of all other SDPI Diabetes Prevention programs. The people completing the classes have lost a total of 2,752.5 pounds during the 16-week session, with 92 participants reaching their seven percent weight loss goal.

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The clinical side of CNDPP provides diabetes supplies (glucose meters, test strips, lancets, syringes) to diabetes patients, supplemental funding to tribal pharmacies for antidiabetes drugs, blood pressure monitors to people diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension, and therapeutic footwear to patients who meet the criteria for high-risk feet.

CNDPP uses a Diabetes Systems of Care approach to prevent and treat possible complications, and employs clinical staff from multiple disciplines, who are located at nine facilities throughout the Cherokee Nation health system.

“What we won the award for was outcomes,” said Teresa Chaudoin, CNDPP director, adding that the program is successful because patients are dedicated. “It takes a partnership with the patient and the participants in order for us to show good outcomes.”

The CNDPP was the first tribal program to be accredited by the American Association of Diabetes Educators.