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Children learn to prevent diabetes at N.M. health fairs

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More than 1,000 school children from rural New Mexico raced, danced, listened and tasted their way through Eagle Books health fairs held in their communities.

The health fairs were developed around the Eagle Books series and taught students from Native communities that healthy food choices, regular physical activity and traditional ways can help prevent Type 2 diabetes.

In a school gymnasium in Zuni Pueblo, a head start teacher read Eagle Books stories to children in the tribe’s Native language, and older students participated in cup stacking races. In Santo Domingo Pueblo, children tasted pancakes made from traditional blue corn. In the Ramah-Navajo community children learned the difference between “every day” and “sometimes” foods and measured the amount of sugar in soda and sweet cereal. In Cochiti, children planted vegetable seeds which will be nurtured in a greenhouse until the seedlings are ready to plant; then the children will help care for them over the summer.

The fairs, held in March, were coordinated by tribal health personnel and local school districts with the support of the Native Diabetes Wellness Program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Participants also included tribal leaders, parents, grandparents and other community members.

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Elder Anita M. Suina, Cochiti Pueblo, shared insights and inspirational stories about traditional ways of life with children attending an Eagle Books health fair March 5.

“It’s amazing what time and effort can create for the young and old, minds and bodies alike,” said Helene Quintana, the recreation/fitness coordinator for Cochiti Pueblo. “The children’s health fair allowed for some awesome positive reinforcement as we here in Cochiti Pueblo continue to focus on diabetes prevention. No children in Cochiti have diabetes and with compassion and love for the community we are working to see that it stays that way.”

Additional events took place at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, where a traveling exhibit of original Eagle Books illustrations by Patrick Rolo, Bad River Band of Ojibwe, Wis. and Lisa A. Fifeld, Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin, Inc., Black Bear Clan, is on display through May 25.

The four-book series was written by Georgia Perez, a community health representative in Nambe Pueblo for 19 years, and developed collaboratively by the CDC, IHS and the Tribal Leaders Diabetes Committee. The series includes wise animal characters, Mr. Eagle, Miss Rabbit and a clever trickster, Coyote, who engage Rain That Dances and his young friends in the joy of healthy living. The stories encourage children to turn to elders for traditional ways of health and highlight the strengths, wisdom and leadership of Native communities for wellness and prevention.

More than two million Eagle Books have been distributed in Indian country, the U.S. and abroad. Information about ordering the books is available online.