Local Impact - Oregon


Shirley Heath

Warm Springs Oregon Diabetes Prevention Program

Imagine going in for your next doctor’s visit and the doctor explained to you that you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes. How would you react? What thoughts would be running through your mind? You may begin to think of questions you might ask your doctor like, what do I need to do to prevent diabetes? How do I start the process? Is there a place that will assist me in getting the help I need? It’s a difficult situation to be in but there is still time to prevent or at least delay the onset of diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) is devoted to helping clients such as those described above in getting the help they need in order to prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 Diabetes.

In order to be a participant in our program one of the conditions are you need to be diagnosed with pre-diabetes. A pre-diabetic diagnosis means a person has higher than normal glucose (blood sugar) levels and is at a higher risk of developing diabetes.

Almost two years ago, Shirley Heath was asked to join our program. She had been diagnosed with pre-diabetes and her coach, Winona Stwyer, talked her into taking our 16-week course curriculum. “She’s a really good coach.” Shirley mentioned. Shirley was concerned that she would only be able to meet every so often and didn’t know if she could attend all the classes. Ms. Stwyer encouraged her by letting her know the program does provide make-up sessions.

Many community members may remember Shirley as a teacher’s assistant from Warm Springs Elementary (WSE) where she beginning working in the late 1960’s. As well as being a teacher’s assistant she helped teach the Indian language to students at WSE and also worked as a liaison for the school.

After her time working at the school, she began working with the horse business out at Kah-Nee-Ta where she worked for about eleven years.

Now, her main focus is being there for her husband. They both do a lot of traveling throughout the Northwest. She drives him to different places throughout Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California. She also enjoys sewing in her spare time.

Shirley likes to spend her extra time sewing things she hasn’t made before, such as tote bags and backpacks. Currently, her biggest challenge is trying to finish a Pendleton coat. She takes pleasure in teaching her children, grandchildren and other community members how to make Wing Dresses and would also like to start teaching how to make Ribbon Shirts.

On top of all the things she likes to do, she has to remind herself that she needs to stay healthy in order to keep enjoying all these wonderful things. After she was diagnosed with pre-diabetes, she says she really had to straighten up and start taking note of her eating habits.

Through the Diabetes Prevention Program she has learned to check the labels and the fat content of products she buys at the grocery store.

It became a challenge for Shirley to keep track of the things she ate when first joining DPP, especially when she would go on travel with her husband. But being able to share the information she learned from the program with her family and her great grandchildren keeping on her about the foods she ate really helped her get through those tough times.

After completing the program, she faced yet another barrier when trying to keep fit. She had to go through surgery. Surgery has delayed her from doing as much as she would like to do. But she continues to stick to her healthy lifestyle changes by maintaining the strategies she learned in the class.

Shirley’s favorite part of the program was the classes. There, she learned to eat healthier foods, use her calorie book, and learned new information from different speakers. All the information that was provided gave her new insight on the things she didn’t already know about her everyday life.

She laughs as she says, “It was good to sit down all together and everyone share their input. We sat and joked with each other and people would laugh and confess about the things they were eating.” Being able to share and visit with others was very rewarding for her.

She continues to implement her healthy lifestyle changes by walking, doing chair exercises, and riding the stationary bike when she can. She uses her tukwash (walking stick) while she goes on her walks and tries to get at least three miles in. At times she gets to enjoy the company of her grandkids while going on a walk. She also tries to attend water aerobics at Kah-Nee-Ta when she can.

Her advice to the community would be to “eat healthy, do a lot of exercise, (if you don’t have access to equipment) do a lot of walking, and drink plenty of water.”

You are the only person who can make the decision to start a healthier lifestyle for yourself. The Diabetes Prevention Program is here to assist you in getting you on your way to making vast improvements for a healthier life. If you have any questions about our program or would like to contact us about more information, please give us a call at (541) 553-7718.

Diabetes in Oregon

According to 2008 CDC data, approximately 199,000 people in Oregon – 6.5% of the state’s population – had diagnosed diabetes, and many suffer from serious diabetes related complications and conditions. In addition to the human toll diabetes places on the people in Oregon, the financial burden diabetes places on the health system in the state is staggering – in 2007, the direct and indirect cost of diabetes in Oregon was approximately $2.18 billion.

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