Tribal Colleges Provide K-12 Diabetes Curriculum

May 15th, 2009 | By | Category: 20-4: Tribal College Leadership and Vision, Tribal College News

BEAVER AND PORCUPINE. This illustration is from a story in the DETS curriculum for pre-K –grade 2. Illustration by Cory Fontaine

Eight tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) and their federal partners formally launched the Diabetes Education in Tribal Schools (DETS) curriculum, Health Is Life in Balance, at a ceremony in November 2008 at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC.

The launch event featured a ceremonial opening in the museum atrium, media briefing, informational presentations, recognitions, and a Round Dance. Special guests at the launch event included the Tribal Leaders Diabetes Committee and health administrators, educators, and providers from approximately 400 Indian Health Service tribal and urban diabetes programs.

Concurrently, the Association of American Indian Physicians (AAIP) hosted “Honoring Native Health Warriors” on the mall, including a walk for health; remarks by AAIP Board President Gerald Hill, M.D.; and a “Dance Away Diabetes” demonstration by Rocco Clark of the Yakama Nation.

The DETS project began at the urging of the members of the Tribal Leaders Diabetes Committee, who were aware of the devastating impact of diabetes. For many years type 2 diabetes has disproportionately afflicted adults in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. The disease is now affecting Native youth at an alarming rate. The science of diabetes and tribal traditions are key components of this first-of-its-kind K-12 curriculum written by tribal colleges and universities. The purpose of DETS is two-fold: to empower Native youth with the knowledge to prevent or delay diabetes in those at risk and to inspire students to pursue careers in health and science.

The TCUs that developed the DETS curriculum include Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Fort Peck Community College, Haskell Indian Nations University, Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, Leech Lake Tribal College, Northwest Indian College, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, and Stone Child College.

The federal partners are the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Indian Health Service (IHS), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Indian Health Service is distributing print copies of Health Is Life in Balance units free to K-12 schools with American Indian/Alaska Native students through its online catalog. Information about Health Is Life in Balance can be found on the project website,, or by contacting any of the DETS colleges. Curriculum units can be downloaded from the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College website at

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