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Article: Ottawa County’s growing epidemic

The first time I heard about diabetes was in 1985 when my grandfather was diagnosed.

As I listened to the adults in the room, my eight year old ears quickly perked up when I heard Grandma say, “He won’t be able to eat birthday cake or ice cream. The sugar may make him sick and kill him.” The disease my grandfather had sounded awful. Two years later, I heard about diabetes again. This time a classmate had it. According to playground rumor, this kid had to eat a candy bar or he would become sick and die. To a 10 year old this disease sounded awesome! Like most Americans, situations like these were the only things I knew about diabetes until I started researching it.

In the 1980’s more than 5 million Americans were diagnosed with Type-1 and Type-2 diabetes, this number however has grown due to a variety of factors: An Aging population, unhealthy lifestyle choices, the rise of obesity, genetics, and better diagnosing followed with accurate reporting by medical professionals.

According to the National Diabetes Statistics Report (2017) published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Over 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes.” With a population of 320 Million+, that’s 9%! In Oklahoma alone that number grows to 11%. When we narrow that number down to Ottawa County the number raises to 16%. According to the US Census, Ottawa County has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the state. According to the CDC, the two highest demographics nationwide that have diabetes are Native Americans (15%) and everyone over the age of 45 (33.5%). Ottawa County has both 26% of folks who are either Native American or mixed and 41% are over age 45. In addition to diabetes being the seventh leading cause of death in the US, people living with diabetes can develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol and elevated triglycerides. A combination of all of these can lead to heart disease, stroke, blindness, and leg amputations. Annual healthcare spending in Oklahoma for those with diabetes exceed the national average of $7,627 by $3,700. How can we turn the tide on this growing epidemic? Education.

While there is no cure for diabetes, scientists do know that the disease is close to preventable through healthy eating and active lifestyle.

From a Native American aspect the Northeast Tribal Health System (NTHS) has established a diabetes and wellness program that focuses on developing life skills for disease prevention and limit complications for those diagnosed. Since many tribal members have family and support systems outside their tribe this outreach has expanded to further educating the public countywide to include hosting the upcoming Diabetes Awareness 5K and Fun Run, which will be held this year on Saturday, Nov. 2. This annual event is a great way for area families to learn more about diabetes and have fun. While this event is open to all ages, children under 8 year old need to be accompanied by an adult. Special awards will be given to the top male and female finishers with medals awarded to the top 3 finishers in each gender and age group. The registration fee is two non-perishable (canned or boxed) food items. All proceeds will benefit the Community Crisis Center in Miami. To learn more call Darla at 918-332-4327, Jordan at 918-332-4455, or visit register?raceID=189762.

The first 150 registered will receive a free event t-shirt.

This article was researched and written by Michael Woodruff of Woodruff Media Management for Northeast Tribal Health System.

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