News & Events


April 17, 2014

Fry Bread Nation

image (20)On Thursday, February 20, 2014, the Native Youth Enrichment Program (NYEP) hosted a high school symposium called “Fry Bread Nation.”  This one day symposium was to educate Native American and Alaska Native Youth on the diabetes epidemic in Indian Country. NYEP partnered with the University of Washington’s Education Outreach Genome Sciences Director, Dr. Maureen Munn; MIT Education Outreach Specialist in Genome Sciences, Joan Griswold; and UW Associate Professor in Bioethics and Humanities, Dr. Helene Starks.

Early in the day we focused on the reasons why diabetes is such a problem in Native American communities by watching the documentary, “Bad Sugar.”  Afterwards, we had a discussion about the documentary and our initial thoughts of diabetes. There are many social and economic issues that have created the epidemic of diabetes in Indian Country. Most important is the dwindling access to water. Water gives Native American communities access to the traditional foods that were critical to ways of living.  We then progressed to our Native learning and the types of research the UW is conducting for Native American communities. For example, there is genetic research that is looking at how human beings process foods differently, the mechanisms of human organs and the differential metabolization of glucose.  image (6)

After lunch we went back to our conference area and learned more about what exactly diabetes is, how you get it, etc. We learned the hard science of glucose and how our muscles, brain and organs need a healthy dose of glucose to function.  Sugar is necessary for our bodies, but when taken in large quantities and not burned off efficiently, health problems begin.

There was a large variety of people attending this symposium, including doctors, scientists, students, parents, elders, and staff who all engaged in meaningful discussions together to make for a lovely learning environment.  We supported each other as pre-diabetic elders, supportive family members with diabetes and those of us who have not had a diagnosis of diabetes discussed how to prevent the disease. Together we can make a healthy change for Native Americans and Alaska Natives as leaders in diabetes prevention.
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