Film fights diabetes with food

DALLAS, Texas ? An American Indian film company is doing its part to fight the diabetes epidemic in the Native American community.

Conquering Diabetes Naturally ? The American Indian Warrior Diet is currently in development by Rich-Heape Films and the Sovereign Nation Preservation Project.

"Part of our mission statement is to promote awareness," said Steven Heape (Cherokee), president of Rich-Heape Films and executive producer of the project. "One of the major problems we have seen everywhere in Indian Country is Diabetes Type II and we are trying to get the word out."

Heape said that health care facilities all over Indian Country are reporting incidents of Type II diabetes in children as young as the eight-to-twelve age group. Based on his research, Heape said, a large percentage of Indian children in this group are also chronically overweight.

"We're involved because of the increasing rate of diabetes in the children of American Indians and research shows that controlling this tragic disease is within everyone's grasp and can be turned around in this generation," said Heape.

A prepared statement from Rich-Heape Films stated that Native Americans affected by diabetes have six times the national average rate of kidney failure, 15 to 40 times the risk of leg amputation and three to four times higher risk of foot amputation.

The American Diabetes Foundation has said the disease will affect as many as 16 million Americans. Heape's research revealed that nearly 10 percent of Native Americans are afflicted with diabetes, approximately 65,000 people.

Diabetes is an incurable chronic condition of high blood sugar caused by too little insulin, resistance to insulin, or both.

This figures out to be three times the national average for Non-Hispanic Whites.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Agriculture have claimed ignorance and have said they either do not have this information or have been less than forthcoming with it, according to Heape.

The film will focus on the havoc diabetes is bringing to the Native American community and the struggle faced by those fighting the disease. The film will also investigate the impact of federal government programs, like food distribution, have had on the current epidemic and the potential solution to the problem found in a traditional diet.

"Federal government food and agricultural food programs were dumping programs to support the agricultural industry," said Heape. He added that a major contributor to a poor diet is processed food, which he described as "just junk" and said overcoming the obsession with convenience needed discipline and strong action from educators and health care professionals in Indian Country.

"This stuff needs to be scrutinized for even being healthy," he commented.

Rich-Heape Films has produced several films on Native American culture, including Native American Healing in the 21st Century, How To Trace Your Native American Heritage and Traditional Native American Stories for Children. The depth and quality of its research have earned it high praise from the Native community. The new documentary will be made available to Native health clinics and hospitals at little or no cost.

"Steve is a community leader and truly cares about the projects he takes on, they come from the heart and I've been extremely proud to be associated with him," said Shirley Hankins (Choctaw), the executive director of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Texas and a board member of the Sovereign Nations Preservation Project, of Heape.

"We have been making films that preserve American Indian heritage and now we are making a film that will save American Indian lives," said Heape. Education is the best weapon we have for fighting this disease, he added.

Heape said he is currently seeking financial help from several pharmaceutical companies to produce the film.

The Sovereign Nations Preservation Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established to create awareness, about important issues facing the modern American Indian and to advance future solutions.