February 7, 2019
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Diabetes Prevention Program is receiving national recognition from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its efforts aimed at preventing type 2 diabetes.
The Cherokee Nation Diabetes Prevention Program is the first tribal program in Oklahoma and one of only 10 total programs in the state to have received CDC full recognition status, a designation reserved for programs that have effectively delivered a quality, evidence-based program that meets CDC recognition standards.
“Cherokee Nation’s Diabetes Prevention Program has set a national precedent. Other health services often turn to us as a model when developing their own prevention programs to address this epidemic,” said Dr. Stephen Jones, Cherokee Nation Health Services acting executive director. “We are extremely proud of the progress our program continues to make. We know we are educating our citizens in ways that encourage healthier lifestyles, and as a result we are saving lives. I’m proud of the Diabetes Prevention Program for being a leader on the state and national levels.”
Cherokee Nation’s Health Services department, which operates W.W. Hastings Hospital and eight health centers, treats about 10,000 diabetes patients per year. Patients who are diagnosed with prediabetes, who have a high risk for prediabetes, or who have a history of gestational prediabetes may be referred to the tribe’s Diabetes Prevention Program.
Since 2017, 293 participants have taken part in Healthy Native classes offered by the Diabetes Prevention Program. The classes encourage participants to focus on weight loss in order to prevent diabetes and other chronic illnesses. Participants attend weekly, bi-weekly and monthly sessions at one of nine sites throughout the tribe’s 14-county area.
“The Cherokee Nation is at the forefront of diabetes prevention,” said Tonya Wapskineh, coordinator of the Cherokee Nation Diabetes Prevention Program. “The work we’ve accomplished proves that diabetes prevention programs work. We’re helping not only smaller tribes, but non-Native organizations like YMCAs and hospitals who want to offer similar preventative programs in their own capacities. Being recognized by the CDC shows we’re still doing successful work. We’ve been told by many participants that we are changing their lives.”
Those participating in the program since 2017 have lost a total of nearly 1,300 pounds. More than 40 have reached their 5 percent weight loss goal. Participants finishing the program have experienced an average weight loss of 6.6 percent after 12 months.
In order to qualify for CDC full recognition status, the Diabetes Prevention Program staff spent two years tracking the program’s successes and providing data to the CDC.
In a letter outlining the CDC’s recognition, Ann Albright, the director of the Division of Diabetes Translation, said the Cherokee Nation program is making an invaluable contribution throughout the 14 counties and the nation.
“As the director of the Diabetes Prevention Recognition Program, it is immensely gratifying to see the science of diabetes prevention being implemented to improve the public’s health,” Albright said in the letter. “It is programs like yours that are turning the tide in the fight against the epidemic of type 2 diabetes.”