What can be done?
The good news is that lifestyle changes particularly in adopting a healthy diet and increasing exercise can work towards preventing, managing, and in some cases reversing diabetes. A doctor may also prescribe the use of insulin. These activities either reduce weight and risk factors, or directly decrease the amount of sugar in the blood.
Many native desert foods can be used as part of a healthy diet and have been shown to directly impact the way metabolism and blood sugar levels are controlled. Research has shown what many native people have always known: traditional foods are healthy foods. In one study, O’odham people consuming a mostly traditional diet living in Mexico were 2.5 times less likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than O’odham people living north of the border that were eating a more standard American diet of processed wheats and sugars (Schultz et al. 2006).
Incorporation of desert foods, particularly for Native American and Latino peoples, can also connect to long-standing cultural traditions. Reestablishing strong cultural traditions can also heal the emotional wounds that this epidemic is causing.