Building wellness
Wholesome living helps diabetes

by Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 22/98) - Aboriginal people are three to five times more likely than non-aborigionals to have or develop diabetes, according to the Canadian Diabetes Association.

And most of those people have Type 2 diabetes or non-insulin-dependent diabetes.

When the Yellowknife branch of the CDA brought up a guest speaker from an aboriginal wellness centre in Edmonton, she told locals the biggest problem is denial.

"Denial is a huge issue," said Rita Makkannaw. "Even people coming to the program are still in denial. They don't want this thing called diabetes."

Part of the reason for that denial, she noted is fear: Diabetes can spur blindness. It also accounts for half non-accident related amputations.

Though the CDA estimates 1.5 million Canadians are diabetic, the group claims there are about 750,000 cases yet to be diagnosed.

Makkannaw, who works with the Aboriginal Diabetes Wellness Program in Edmonton, stressed her centre's free program offers a four-day live-in retreat. Visitors take part in traditional circles where they can share knowledge and receive answers to questions from elders and health care professionals.

Despite an Aboriginal focus, the Edmonton program is open to all, though there is a program in Yellowknife following similar goals.

"We've taken some of the same pathways," said John Morse, outgoing president of the Yellowknife branch.

"I don't think the program Rita has will pop up in town."

Morse said one future goal for the Yellowknife branch is to have a "clinic on wheels," to travel to places such as Rae-Edzo.

The Alberta and NWT division has a travelling diabetes resource program but it has so far only ventured around Alberta.

To start the meeting, Yellowknife branch members elected a new board.

Five executive members were elected at-large to determine each's position at a future meeting. The only definite executive position is Morse as past president.

There is no current president.

The five Yellowknifers are Lorne Matthews, Bev Matthews, Onalee Randall, Mabel Wong and Roy Dahl.

There are three types of diabetes. Type 1 is insulin-dependent diabetes which occurs when the pancreas no longer produces any or very little insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is non-insulin dependent and occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body does not use produced insulin effectively.

A third type is gestational diabetes. This is a temporary condition occurring during pregnancy and affecting one out of 20 pregnant women, with 40 per cent of the cases developing into Type 2 diabetes in later life.

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