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Healing Trail promotes diabetes awareness. (Diabetes).

The Healing Trail program has been up and running for less than a year, but has already met and exceeded many of its goals.

The program, a three-year pilot project funded through Health Canada, was launched in June. The program is aimed at Aboriginal and Metis people in the Dryden area, but everything being done through the program is designed to be adopted and adapted by other communities.

Each project is developed, then run in the Dryden area and, if it's deemed successful, it's made available to other communities to use.

"Our philosophy is not to reinvent wheels. Too much of that has been happening, and it's leaving us with no resources," said Vicki Scherban, community liaison with The Healing Trail program.

"The project is well on its way. It's actually exceeded its goals and objectives in six months, so it's going very, very well," Scherban said.

"It started with a very unique partnership with the Ontario Metis Aboriginal Association, the Dryden Native Friendship Centre, and the Dryden Regional Health Centre, which is the hospital that serves the district, and the Dryden Diabetes Centre. And the four organizations grouped together to develop a promotion/prevention program, which is funded by Health Canada, under their Mohawk program."

One of the goals of the program is to increase awareness about diabetes among the Aboriginal community. This has been done through a poster campaign, a radio campaign, articles in local newspapers, and through participation in community trade shows.

The program has also recently opened an office, which is open three days a week.

The Healing Trail has had a lot of success in reaching its target audience, and getting. its message out.

"We've reached over 110 individuals just through community workshops. We had over 3,500 visit our booth at a trade show. Just in this area, this small region. We're optimistic that the word is getting out there. We have phone calls coming in continuously," Scherban said.

A number of different projects have been launched through The Healing Trail, many done in partnership with community organizations, or corporations.

"We're in the process of launching, in partnership with Lifescan Canada, which is the Johnson and Johnson company, another partnership in providing meters to urban Aboriginals and Metis. And in doing that, we receive dollars back from registering them and monitoring them, from Lifescan, to develop more resources. Because resources are far and few between. A lot of onetime printings, and then the resource dies off. So we're trying to develop some sort of partnerships where we have some revenue to continue to develop our materials," Scherban said.

One of those resource materials being developed is a "how-to" community manual.

"It's going to consist of eight workshops for nutrition, and eight workshops in the prevention of diabetes and the understanding of Type II diabetes. And so there'll be 16 community workshops. And it's being developed and ready for market by March, we're hoping, for other communities or organizations to implement in their communities. We've tested them in ours, and they've gone well. They consist of a lot of Aboriginal content. So that's what we're trying to do. Because there's very little of that. There's lots of Type II diabetes information, but with respect to Aboriginal and incorporating the thrifty gene, etc., you know, we're doing all of those things," Scherban said.

Another initiative launched through The Healing Trail is an Aboriginal diabetes outreach worker program, being offered through the local hospital. The first offering of the program has seven participants, representing a number of Aboriginal organizations, including the Ontario

Metis Aboriginal Association, the Metis Nation of Ontario, the Dryden Native Friendship Centre, and the Red Lake Ontario Metis Aboriginal Association.

"We are training outreach workers that work for urban Aboriginal organizations in their current positions, in either long term care or community health outreach. And it started in September. It runs through until March, and it will provide them with a really solid foundation in diabetes education. And The Healing Trail felt that was probably one of the key areas to address, because those organizations then can take some ownership in ongoing prevention programs."

If the first offering of the outreach training program is successful, it could form the basis of an apprenticeship program for use in communities across the province Scherban said.

"We have had preliminary discussions with the Ministry of Education and Trade regarding an apprenticeship program. We would like to proceed in that area once we have tried this trial. We are creating a new curriculum that is Aboriginal-sensitive and culturally appropriate. So again, we are going to have another model that can again be mirrored in other communities by simply obtaining an RN or RD, a Registered Nurse or a Registered Dietitian, and an Elder to deliver the program.

"So we're trying to, in the same time, look to our neighboring communities, that have not created a program yet. All of these programs will be set up so that they can be utilized in other communities," Scherban said.

Another project being launched by The Healing Trail is aimed at getting diabetes information out to Aboriginal youth. The new pilot project is being launched at Wabigoon school. The urban school is located in Wabigoon, a community about 15 minutes east of Dryden that has a high Aboriginal population.

"We will be attempting to screen the children there, in partnership with the Dryden Diabetes Centre. And we will also be providing workshops toward adopting healthy lunch programs. And we will also have materials and programs implemented into their class curriculum that are Aboriginal appropriate again, and culturally appropriate," Scherban said.

Scherban indicated there is no statistical information available regarding

the prevalence of diabetes among the area's Aboriginal community. That, she said, was another thing the program hoped to address.

"We know the statistics are high. We don't have any data. I had just had a discussion with Health Canada with respect to, in our last three or four months, accessing some sort of resources to do an assessment off-reserve and on-reserve.

"Our reserves are very close to our communities. We have about six communities we're focusing on here. And then the reserves are minutes apart from these, and we have four reserves in this area, directly. And this is just a small urban project. What we would like to do is partner with them to do an assessment across the board, to come up with some hard, fast numbers so we know where to start directing our attention.

"Sandy Lake's not far from here, so we know that if the statistics are 29 per cent or more in Sandy Lake, those numbers are probably not far off most of the Aboriginals residing in northwestern Ontario, this far anyway. But we really would like to do an assessment, and they agree that that would probably be a good area to go towards, to focus on," she said.

"We're walking before we run. We want to complete our first year pilot. But to date, we've totally exceeded expectations, both of our community and Health Canada," Scherban said.

As for the long term, she'd like to see the program create a number of resources that will continue to be available once the pilot project has ended.

"I think the long term goal would be to have, raised enough awareness that we have changed the way that we're eating in our communities, and our activity levels. But most importantly, is that we've developed the resources that could be accessible, and be able to market those resources to become self-sustainable to continue to provide these services. Because they have to be ongoing. We just can't do a news flash. It just doesn't work. And I mean, we're diagnosing them as young as five out here. So we have a serious epidemic facing us. So I think it has to be an ongoing process. And that's why we've always directed our resources at developing items that could be either marketed or renewed easily and cost effectively."

RELATED ARTICLE: Just the facts about diabetes

* Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic disorder in which the pancreas is unable to produce insulin, does not produce enough insulin to meet the body's needs or the body cannot use the insulin that is produced properly.

* Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that is required to ensure energy we receive from food is allowed to enter the bodies cells. When insulin is not available or not working properly, the energy from the food we eat stays in the blood stream and the blood sugar level rises.

* The most common type of diabetes is Type I or Insulin Dependant Diabetes Mellitus, also know as IDDM; and Type II or Non Insulin Dependant Diabetes Mellitus, also know as NIDDM; and Gestational diabetes.

* Symptoms of diabetes may vary, but the classic symptoms, particularly for Type II diabetes include frequent urination, unusual thirst, changes in appetite, unexplained weight loss, extreme fatigue, irritability, abdominal cramps, and acetone breath.

* In many cases, people with Type II diabetes have no symptoms, and diabetes is discovered during routine check-ups or in connection with another problem.

* Type II diabetes usually diagnosed with severe symptoms and very high blood sugar levels. Additional symptoms may include frequent infections, blurred vision, cuts or bruises that are slow to heal, tingling or numbness in hands or feet; recurring skin, gum or bladder infections and itchy skin.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Petten, Cheryl
Publication:Wind Speaker
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2001
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