TERRACE, British Columbia – With the hopes of preventing and helping manage diabetes in northwest British Columbia’s aboriginal communities, where the disease is almost epidemic, Northwest Community College is hosting a Community Diabetes Prevention Worker pilot program sponsored by Health Canada.
Focused on prevention, the training provides health workers with the knowledge and practical skills to assist in developing and delivering diabetes services relevant to their communities. Graduates of the program promote diabetes awareness and prevention, and become valuable and accessible resource people who assist diabetes patients and their families manage the disease.
Since January, 13 students from First Nations villages throughout the region have travelled every month to NWCC Terrace Campus to take the training. As part of a practicum between class sessions, the students are also educating their communities about diabetes through workshops, lectures, fitness training and cooking demonstrations.
“Through this course, I feel I can have a real impact in my community,” said Mary Ann Wilson, a student from Skidegate on Haida Gwaii. “I’m diabetic myself. When I was diagnosed, I was taught how to monitor my blood and watch my diet, but I never really knew what was going on with my body. I now have a better understanding of how I became diabetic and how to help myself and others.”
“I’m very excited about what I’m learning,” said another participant, Karon McKay from Greenville. “Before participating in this course, I never really understood what diabetes was. The disease is personal for a lot of us too. Our family members are affected. This can be prevented.”
According to the Health Council of Canada’s March 2007 report “Why Health Care Renewal Matters: Lessons from Diabetes,” First Nations adults are two to eight times more likely to have diabetes than the overall Canadian population. Children and adolescent First Nations are also increasingly diagnosed with the disease. The report concludes that prevention efforts make a difference.
“Efforts to reduce chronic health conditions in aboriginal villages in other regions of Canada have been able to significantly decrease incidence rates,” said Margo Van der Touw, NWCC’s dean of trades, continuing education and industry training. “By offering this course, we hope to achieve those same results in the northwest.”
Lori McLean, an instructor from Yellowquill College, a First Nations school based in Winnipeg, is partnering with NWCC to deliver the program. The college’s Continuing Education and Industry Training Department intends to deliver a modified version of this program as community workshops in the fall of 2009.