Classes and support help community members prevent and manage diabetes

By Lailani Upham 

Char-Koosta News

ELMO — Diabetes self-management is all about changes in attitude, behavior, and most importantly, support.

The Elmo community came up with their own idea to start a support system for each another “to do better,” said Junior Caye, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Health Department Guided Care Elmo Community Advocate.

Caye said after talking to patients and gaging what support and resources were available, the THD community and community members requested a diabetes intervention class to be offered each week at the Elmo THD clinic. 

“People with diabetes often receive diabetes education in a way or time when they’re not receptive to it or not ready to make changes,” said CKST Tribal Health Diabetes Registered Nutritionist, Brenda Bodnar. “They often need the support. The intention of this group is being responsive to their requests and needs.”

Caye, who is also a diabetic, said the Elmo Guided Care team has reached out to their community. 

“I know we can do better,” he said, adding that he has witnessed a healthier change in his self and his community. “I see it in their attitude, just by showing up.” 

However, Caye understands there is also much room for improvement. 

The Elmo Diabetes Group is part of the Flathead Diabetes Services funded by the Indian Health Service Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) grant.

“In Elmo this (class) is delivered in a group setting, whereas, if a medical provider refers someone for diabetes education or diabetes prevention the program is delivered on an individual basis,” Bodnar said. She has been leading the group in Elmo but Angela Nicolai, BSN, RN is the CSKT THD Nurse Educator, who cares for diabetic patients in the Polson and St. Ignatius communities. “In addition to providing diabetes education for people with diabetes, the Flathead Diabetes Services places an emphasis on diabetes prevention.”

Bodnar also had a “call out” from the Salish Kootenai College community to hold a lunch hour class on campus directed at prevention. A group of SKC staffers buttress one another through a weekly “Prevent T2” participant guide to hold each other accountable in lifestyle eating, activity and exercise. 

According to the Centers on Disease Control there are 29.1 million people with diabetes, that is one in four people in the United States; and 86 million people with pre-diabetic condition, that is one in three people in America. “Of those 86 million with pre-diabetes nine out of 10 don’t know they have it,” Bodnar said. 

“The diabetes services have been doing community screenings for pre-diabetes. If you identify as being at high risk on a paper and pen screening you’re told to follow up with your doctor,” Bodnar said. “Often those medical providers refer people with pre-diabetes back to the diabetes prevention program Prevent T2.” 

Another diabetes support effort for the Elmo community is to take the group to Mission Valley Aquatic Center in Polson for weekly swimming classes, Caye said. He said the community also offers camping and hunting camps that serve as another option to be active and find support. 

He said although there are those in the community who are oftentimes struggling with personal challenges and “working on getting on their feet” they gather when they can. 

“They are here and look forward to getting together and helping one another manage (diabetes),” Caye said.

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