Addressing Childhood Obesity and Diabetes in Tribal Communities in New Mexico

Building stakeholder consensus through research, meetings, and interviews

    • January 15, 2013

Dates of Project: January–August 2012

Field of Work: Addressing childhood obesity and diabetes among Native American youth

Problem Synopsis: Overweight, obesity, and type 2 diabetes are rampant in Native American communities, including those in New Mexico, where Native Americans account for more than 10 percent of the population. In 2011, a report from the New Mexico Department of Health found that 42.7 percent of Native American kindergartners were overweight or obese, and that 49.7 percent of Native American third-graders were obese.

Synopsis of the Work: The project team worked with partners to report on obesity and type 2 diabetes among Native American youth and interview 23 key stakeholders in New Mexico, including representatives from tribes, tribal health programs, and state agencies. The project team also held four meetings with such stakeholders to identify challenges and opportunities in reducing obesity and type 2 diabetes among Native American children in New Mexico.

Key Findings:

  • Many tribes in New Mexico lack the infrastructure and resources to provide good data on the incidence of obesity and type 2 diabetes among their youth.
  • Native American populations face unique risk factors and social determinants of obesity and type 2 diabetes among youth, including family medical history and genetics, high poverty rates, historical trauma, and cultural disintegration.
  • Federal and state agencies, tribes, and foundations have not provided clear and consistent leadership in addressing obesity and diabetes among Native American youth.

Key Recommendations:

  • Build culturally appropriate capacity to address obesity and type 2 diabetes among Native American youth through peer-to-peer learning, cross-sector collaboration, and evidence-based program evaluation and research.
  • Educate parents on healthy eating and cooking, and improve the built environment through safe roads and sidewalks, safe places to play, and new or improved community facilities.
  • Provide flexible funding to allow tribes to design appropriate programs.
  • Implement a culturally relevant communications campaign to raise awareness of the obesity epidemic in tribal communities.

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Notah Begay III calls for communications campaigns to raise awareness of obesity epidemic in tribal communities.

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