Youth novels : educators and community guide
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      Before 1950 type 2 diabetes was rare among American Indians and Alaska Natives. Many elders remember a time when there was no word for diabetes in their language, because it was unknown. Westernized lifestyles with coincident obesity and physical inactivity are powerful risk factors for this relatively new “disease of civilization.” The web of causation is deeper, however, intertwined by historical, economic, environmental, and sociological roots (Satterfield, DeBruyn, Francis, Allen 2012). In recent years, type 2 diabetes has been increasingly diagnosed in young people and even children. American Indian and Alaska Native adults are twice as likely to have diagnosed diabetes as non- Hispanic whites (16.1% vs. 7.1%) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2011.) From 1994 to 2004, the age-adjusted rates of diagnosed diabetes doubled for American Indian and Alaska Native people under 35 years of age, from 8.5 per 1,000 population in 1994 to 17.1 per 1000 in 2004 (CDC, 2006). Type 2 diabetes mellitus is now woven into the fabric of losses in tribal communities across North America.

      Because of the growing incidence of type 2 diabetes in Native communities, the Tribal Leaders Diabetes Committee (TLDC) in 2001 engaged the CDC’s Native Diabetes Wellness Program (the Wellness Program) to develop culturally- based, primary prevention materials for children. Families were identifying health education for their children as a top priority. Storytelling, they felt, would be the best way to go: “The children need stories—but stories where they see their own faces.”

      Listening carefully to this advice, the Wellness Program developed the Eagle Books, a four-book series for young children. The stories, Through the Eyes of the Eagle, Knees Lifted High, Plate Full of Color, and Tricky Treats, were written by Georgia Perez of the Nambe Pueblo in New Mexico. They tell the tale of a young boy, Rain that Dances, who is befriended by an eagle. The eagle, helped by a rabbit and coyote, encourages the boy and his friends to eat nutritious foods, play outside, and follow the healthy traditions of their ancestors.

      In response to the popularity of the original Eagle Books, the Wellness Program is now developing a series of youth novels. Written by Terry Lofton of Westat, Inc. and illustrated by Patrick Rolo, the novels are aimed at middle schoolers (grades 6 through 8). To increase the appeal of the books, the Wellness Program has adopted entertainment-education (E-E) as its primary communication strategy for reaching out to middle school audiences. E-E incorporates health and other educational messages into popular media such as youth novels, graphic novels, comic books, games, cartoons, and TV shows. Because E-E combines message with fun and age-appropriate story genres, it is especially effective in raising awareness, increasing knowledge, creating favorable attitudes, and presenting positive role models. To maintain the interest of young readers, the Wellness Program has adopted the E-E formula: 85% entertainment and 15% education.

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