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WSU Study Aims to Prevent Diabetes in American Indian Men

Ka'imi SinclairAffecting close to 10 percent of Americans, diabetes has been called a public health epidemic. The disease is especially common in American Indians, who are twice as likely to have diabetes as white Americans and experience the highest rates of kidney failure from diabetes.

Improved diabetes prevention and management in Natives and other minority groups has been a long-time focus for Ka’imi Sinclair, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the College of Nursing and a researcher in the WSU Initiative for Research and Education to Advance Community Health (IREACH). As part of her work, Sinclair tailors diabetes-related health interventions to the cultural values of different groups.

With funding from a five-year, $2.3 million NIH grant, she and her research team are now developing a program to better engage Native American men in weight loss and physical activity to help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Their “Strong Men, Strong Communities” program is based on the Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Change Program, an intervention that has previously been implemented in Native communities across the country. While the implementation project had favorable outcomes among its participants, few men participated in the program.

“Only a quarter of participants were men, and those who enrolled were more likely to drop out than women,” said Sinclair, who is Western Cherokee.

The WSU team is partnering with tribal organizations to recruit and study 240 overweight or obese Native American men at a reservation in western New York; an urban health clinic in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and a Native community center in Portland, Oregon. Designed with input from focus groups conducted with American Indian men, the intervention will feature 12 one-hour, weekly classes made up of equal parts education and exercise. During a subsequent three-month period, participants will be offered activities to help maintain their physical activity. The researchers will follow the participants for a total of 12 months.

“During that time, we hope to see them lose weight and reduce their risk of developing diabetes,” Sinclair said. “We’ll also learn a lot from them about what motivates Native men to participate and stay in a lifestyle change program.”

–Story by Judith Van Dongen

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