Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges. Discussion »
The Longest Walk 3 - Reversing Diabetes is coming to an end this week when the Long Walkers walk into Washington DC. It comes to an end after walking across the country to bring attention to the devastating impact diabetes has American Indians that began on February 14, 2011.
While the Longest Walk 3 technically comes to an end, the work to bring awareness to American Indians about diabetes will last a lifetime.
We, American Indians, don't have to look far to identify someone who is diabetic within their community. We typically don't have to go beyond our family circles. We know our grandparents have it; we know our mothers and father have it and many other relatives and friends.
Ironically enough, only a lifetime ago, there was very little evidence of diabetes among Native people.
Sadly, that is not the case today. American Indians are twice as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic Caucasians. American Indians and Alaska Natives have amputations at three to four times the rate of the general population due to diabetes.
Indian Health Services reports the following statistics among American Indian and Alaska Natives:
These devastating numbers were determining factors for Dennis Banks, the co-founder of the American Indian Movement, to decide to have a walk across America to bring attention of how diabetes impact the lives of American Indians.
Banks, who has waged wars for causes for American Indians for the past several decades declared war on diabetes yesterday at the National Diabetes Summit in Leesburg, Virginia. Banks should be commended on bringing this awareness to American Indian nations across the United States.
“Let it be said a hundred years from now that this is the generation of American Indians to do something about diabetes,”
Banks said at the beginning of the Longest Walk 3 in California in February.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report that diabetes is at epidemic proportions throughout all races in the United States.
While the numbers are real and dismal, there is positive evidence that diabetes can be controlled through diet and exercise.
Changing one's diet is not particularly easy, especially when access to healthy foods is problematic, as it is in many American Indian communities - both on reservations and in urban areas where many Indians live.
Furthermore, getting into an exercise routine is difficult when people have been couch potatoes for a prolonged time, but it can be done. Waiting to discover has diabetes may be too late to make the alter one's behavior patterns.
We all need to get a checkup to determine what our own personal risk may be when it comes to diabetes.
One of the most powerful attributes of American Indians is their resiliency. American Indians are - in fact - survivors. We survived the planned genocide of our people for decades.
We can beat the war on diabetes, but we must pay attention to what we eat and how active we are. Sheer will power will not do it.
American Indians must realize this journey will last the rest of our lifetimes.
posted July 7, 2011 9:00 am edt
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