Childhood obesity significantly increases a child’s risk for type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndromes, and American Indians have the highest prevalence of these diseases in comparison to other demographics.
The Rocky Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center (RMTEC) sought to increase the capacity for tribes and tribal health departments to respond to the growing rates of childhood obesity and identify best-fit interventions. Staff at RMTEC partnered with tribal health workers at 11 tribes to collect and track the health measurements of American Indian children in the Rocky Mountain Region. Participating tribes were then provided with tribally-specific reports containing the health measurements of their youth as well as specific recommendations for addressing related risks. To date, the Rocky Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center had amassed over 13,000 unique health measurements on youth aged 5-19 years.
The annual Child Health Measures Workshop is designed to provide in-person support to the tribal health workers by sharing best practices, providing technical assistance, and ongoing education on nutrition and physical activity. Attendees of the 9th annual workshop included tribal health directors, school nurses, diabetes prevention coordinators, physical education teachers, health educators, and others affiliated with tribal health. Over the course of three days, speakers and presenters guided workshop attendees through modules designed to supplement the on-the-grounds work that tribal health workers conduct daily. The workshop featured presentations by Scott Devous, MD, on adding prevention and telehealth for obesity-related illnesses and by Jonathan Gilbert, MD at Indian Health Service, on strategies for communities to prevent childhood obesity. In addition, RMTEC hosted Laurie Ellis, RN, creator of the Back in Whack Program to educate participants on the vital components of a successful youth weight-management program plus one additional component titled lifestyle habits. This additional component teaches youth and parents about high impact lifestyle habits that have positive and negative effects on the body’s energy balance and body mass index. Interactive modules of the Child Health Measures Workshop featured demonstrations of healthy food preparation as well as exercises, both designed to support the development of healthy lifestyle habits in youth.
Below are quotes from participants’ evaluation forms regarding the workshop:
- “Thank you for having us and treating us with the utmost respect as well as supplying us with more knowledge about diabetes so we can dispense it to our own communities”
- “It is important that this program doesn’t stop. Dr. Devous and Dr. Gilbert were awesome resources and staff at RMTEC did an excellent job!”
- “This was awesome, it was very interesting, thoroughly enjoyed the speakers and I hope this program continues on through the years”
- “Overall workshop was awesome, presenters presented informational material that we will be able to utilize within our own programs. I am looking forward to bringing all that I’ve learned back to the community”
Jonathan Gilbert, MD, Indian Health Service, discussing ways communities can combat the childhood obesity epidemic.
Laurie Ellis, RN, discussing “Back in Whack” – a pediatric weight management program developed by Ellis.
Helen Tesfai, MPH, presenting and overview on the Child Health Measures Project, including an aggregate trend analysis.
Rocky Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center looks forward to continuing this project into its 10th year.