High incidence of diabetes in the O'odham: Community approach in prevention and control for a Native American tribe
The O'odham have the highest recorded incidence of diabetes type II. Scientific studies have shown that diet and exercise are important factors in the prevention and control of the disease. This study uses traditional anthropological methods and theory to examine past and present concepts and practices in the prevention and control of diabetes in the Ak-Chin Community, an Arizona Indian Reservation of mostly O'odham (Pima and Papago). The study fills some gaps in present knowledge about the relationships between Ak-Chin people's world view and their behavior associated with diabetes. The constellation of cultural, environmental, political, and economical factors in the etiology of diabetes at Ak-Chin is identified. Ak-Chin people's knowledge on the origin, prevention and control of diabetes is also studied. The results show that all of these factors are important, and interrelated.
Traditional ethnography is combined with "practical anthropology" in an original approach for the community itself to find strategies that can contribute to the prevention and a better control of diabetes. Traditional ethnography is required to obtain the necessary depth of understanding of Ak-Chin world view. The results show that the Ak-Chin people have a deep knowledge and understanding of diabetes and of the local history of diabetes, which knowledge was learned primarily from the elders, who witnessed the birth of this new disease along with significant cultural changes in the community. Prior to the 1940s diabetes was not known at Ak-Chin. The study also shows that, although the Ak-Chin people have significant knowledge on prevention and control of the disease mentioned above, they report having extreme difficulties doing what they know to be essential in controlling and preventing it. Armed with these results, (non-medical) community projects directed toward addressing the problem of diabetes were started.
0573: Public health