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Teaching people to manage diabetes

Nathalie Heiberg-Harrison
Northern News Services
Published Monday, January 9, 2012

Diabetics in the Beaufort Delta will have the chance to attend diabetes management workshops and cooking circles in the coming months.

NNSL photo/graphic

Sarah Camsell, aboriginal health co-ordinator with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, filets char from Ulukhaktok in preparation for the Inuvik cooking circle held in December. Residents in Sachs Harbour will have the chance to learn how to make stuffed Arctic char at a cooking circle to be held on Jan. 11 in the community. - photo courtesy of Jennalle Butcher

The courses, offered by the Beaufort Delta Health and Social Services Authority and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, will run in each of the Inuvialuit communities.

"The focus is on preventing and managing diabetes," said Jennalle Butcher, regional nutritionist for health authority.

The funding for the program is provided by the federal government's Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative, which has committed $275 million between 2010 and 2015 for diabetes prevention activities and services.

Butcher, who is running the courses along with a nurse practitioner, said the courses haven't been spurred on by a spike in diabetes diagnoses.

"There are all sorts of risk factors for developing diabetes, and being aboriginal is one factor, but I don't think it's more of a problem in the North. Diabetes is a problem everywhere," she said.

"It's important to learn how to cook, here as well as anywhere else, but it's just those skills aren't being passed down the way that they once were, and as we see less knowledge and ability to cook good food for our own families, families are more at the mercy of prepared foods now."

The first diabetes management workshop will run at the Sachs Harbour community hall from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Jan. 11, followed by the cooking circle from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Yvonne Elias will show the class how to make stuffed Arctic char and Sarah Camsell, aboriginal health co-ordinator with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, will show how to make broccoli with cheese sauce and blueberry peach crisp.

"I have a stockpile of recipes here. A lot of them use traditional foods but a lot are modern-type recipes," Butcher said.

Butcher hopes to recruit community members like Elias to teach recipes in each Inuvialuit community. For most of the recipes they will be combining traditional food with store-bought food.

"With our focus being preventing diabetes, this is only one part of the picture but it is an important one, just learning to keep up those basic cooking skills," she said.

While the cooking circle will focus on promoting traditional foods and passing down cooking skills from generation to generation, the diabetes management workshop will be primarily for those with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

The class will prepare lunch together and discuss how to balance carbohydrates and protein, manage blood pressure and prevent complications by managing blood sugar levels and other risk factors.

They will also discuss foot care and the importance of exercise.

"It's part of our method of bringing health care to the communities," Butcher said.

In December the first cooking circle was held in Inuvik, and Butcher said the next class following Sachs Harbour would likely be in Tuktoyaktuk between Jan. 23 and 25.

In February they will visit Paulatuk and Ulukhaktok, and in March they will offer a course in Aklavik.

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