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Teaching tools foster science and diabetes education in American Indian schools

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Schools across the country now have free access to an innovative set of teaching tools designed to increase the understanding of science, health and diabetes among American Indian and Alaska Native students from kindergarten through the 12th grade.

The comprehensive new curriculum, called "Health is Life in Balance," was launched Nov. 12 at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

The curriculum, a product of the Diabetes-based Science Education in Tribal Schools (DETS) program, integrates science and Native American traditions to educate students about science, diabetes and its risk factors, and the importance of nutrition and physical activity in maintaining health and balance in life. Applying an inquiry-based approach to learning, the curriculum builds research skills in observation, measurement, prediction, experimentation, and communication.

The project was developed in collaboration with eight tribal colleges and universities and several American Indian organizations, with funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the IHS, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Diabetes, a major cause of heart disease and stroke and the most common cause in adults of blindness, kidney failure and amputations not related to trauma, now afflicts nearly 24 million people in the United States. Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, is linked to older age, obesity, physical inactivity, family history of the disease and a history of gestational diabetes. In the last 30 years, the incidence of type 2 diabetes has been steadily rising.

The rate of diagnosed diabetes in American Indians and Alaska Natives is two to three times that of non-Hispanic whites. Nearly 17 percent of the total adult population served by the IHS has diagnosed diabetes. After adjusting for population age differences, diabetes rates vary from 6 percent among Alaska Native adults to 29 percent among American Indian adults in southern Arizona. Once seen only in adults, type 2 diabetes is increasingly being diagnosed in youth, especially in American Indian and other minority populations.

"Many people don't know that type 2 diabetes can often be prevented by losing a modest amount of weight through diet and regular physical activity," said Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), which contributed most of the funding for the project. "We hope that this innovative, well tested curriculum will reduce the rapidly rising incidence of type 2 diabetes in Native Americans by teaching young people about diabetes prevention."

http://www.indiancountrytoday.com/living/health/34886734.html

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