The classes are open to adults of Alaska Native or American Indian heritage who have been diagnosed with prediabetes.
Since the 2006 start of the program, 61 Native students in Sitka and Juneau have learned how to make permanent lifestyle changes that will help them prevent or delay their progression to Type 2 diabetes.
Prediabetes is a condition that places an individual at high risk for developing diabetes, and most people who have prediabetes don't know it. Some of the risk factors for prediabetes are:
Having a parent, brother or sister who has diabetes;
Being physically active less than 30 minutes three times a week;
Having high blood pressure; or
Being a woman who had diabetes during a pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or delivered a baby that weighed more than nine pounds.
The SEARHC Lifestyle Balance Program offers fun, interactive weekly class sessions, where participants learn how to choose higher fiber/lower fat foods at the grocery store, how to put together a balanced meal, and how to make time for physical activity every day.
They also get to taste-test healthy recipes, learn problem-solving skills, learn how to make healthier choices at a restaurant, and, most importantly, learn from others who have similar situations.
The participants learn from each other and receive on-going support in their efforts to remain diabetes-free.
"Alaska Natives and American Indians have diabetes rates among the highest in the world," said SEARHC Diabetes Prevention Project Coordinator Susan Hoyt, who also said the Lifestyle Balance Program is one of 36 similar efforts around the country that is part of a competitive grant from the Indian Health Service and designed to reduce diabetes impacts on Indian Country.
"The lifestyle changes this evidence-based, culturally appropriate curriculum addresses have been shown to reduce a participant's risk of diabetes by more than 50 percent."
The next series of classes is scheduled to begin the last week of August, and the 16-week schedule will allow students to complete the program prior to the holiday season.
Daytime and evening class hours will be available, but the schedule will be flexible to make it more convenient for the participants.
The Juneau class will be in the SEARHC Annex Building, 3200 Hospital Dr., Second Floor (down the hall from the American Red Cross of Alaska office), and the Sitka class will be in the SEARHC Diabetes Program office, 208-B Lake St. (next to GCI and Sitka Tribe of Alaska's Resources Protection Department).
The participation requirements for these Lifestyle Balance Program classes are to be at least 18 years old, be of Alaska Native or American Indian descent, be a resident of Juneau or Sitka, have a clinical diagnosis of prediabetes (which needs a recent physical and bloodwork), and a willingness to participate in regular group education sessions and individual counseling sessions.
For more information and to register for the classes, contact Kathy Dennis in Juneau at 364-4453 or call Jeannette Chavez in Sitka at 966-8916.