Our model is a peer mentored, event focused, community-based lifestyle intervention that uses exercise and education to empower people with diabetes to live healthier and happier lives. Building on the huge success that a pilot program has had on the Pascua Yaqui reservation, we want to grow the program to work with other people living with diabetes in resource poor communities.
The following are key elements of our programs:
Peer mentorship - This means giving people heroes who look and live like them. Native Americans with Type 2 diabetes face unique challenges compared to people of other cultures and higher socioeconomic levels. Our program uses exercise and education to empower people to better manage their diabetes and to be changemakers in their own community. In the extended and interwoven social network of the tribe, we have found this to be highly effective.
Community based support- The use of the strong Native American community, both within and between tribes, gives members both accountability and a commitment device. We have heard in countless interviews and surveys that the idea of representing the tribe, and the accountability that comes from exercising in a group, has massively increased adherence to exercise regimens.
Self ownership- Each participant become a highly visible representative and role model for their community. We have achieved this through branding cycling gear with tribal flags and the slogan “beating diabetes one mile at a time”. By taking ownership of their heritage, condition, and their struggle to better their lives and the situation of their community, people are able to access a high level of motivation and pride in their efforts.
Exercise and education – Our aim is to work with, not replace, the medical community. Clinicians don’t have the time to provide the level of education necessary to teach people how to effectively manage diabetes and make behavioral changes. Additionally, people learn best through active learning versus passive learning. Our program offers connects people with peer mentors who can provide education, support and an example to others with diabetes. We aim to take the burden of education and place it in the community itself so that burden can be shared. This has been shown to be effective and reduce healthcare cost. Through this model, we hope to create changemakers in resource poor communities who will go on to be the nodes through which these communities generate their own change and make themselves healthier and happier.
Why the program is event focused -Using an event as our end focus provides a goal and a deadline for our participants. We always say the finish of our goal event is the start of a healthier life, but sometimes we need a finish line to work towards. Chronic conditions often don’t give us deadlines and incrementally becoming healthier can be hard to celebrate. Finishing an event is also a reason to celebrate, and we firmly believe that people should celebrate their achievements on the road to better health. Events create a sense of achievement and meaning along that route. For more on why we use cycling, see the "why bicycles?" section above.