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11th Annual BC Aboriginal Diabetes Conference finds Route to Wellness

11th Annual BC Aboriginal Diabetes Conference finds Route to Wellness

BC Aboriginal Diabetes Conference organizer and Splatsin Nation member Donna Felix addresses the crowd.

PENTICTON – The 11th annual BC Aboriginal Diabetes Conference wrapped up as an astounding success after four days of education, collaboration and finding solutions to an issue that affects many First Nations communities. Held March 20-23 in Penticton, the event brought together over 400 participants from around the province including Chiefs, Elders, community health workers, educators, community members, and keynote speeches from Osoyoos Chief Clarence Louie, Splatsin Chief Wayne Christian, Dr. Curtis Bell from Interior Health and the interim First Nations Health Authority Executive Director Michelle Degroot. This year’s theme was ‘Diabetes: Route to Wellness’ and had numerous educational workshops, guest speakers, exercise activities, a trade fair, banquet, entertainment and more.“This year was amazing as participants looked at emotional and spiritual trauma in relation to diabetes, celebrated life, remembered those lost to diabetes and through spiritual ceremony were able to release and heal,” said Conference Organizer and Splatsin Nation member Donna Felix who has been involved in the conference since the first year.

“We are so thankful of all the volunteers, our sponsors and the attendees who make this event a success year after year, it wouldn’t happen without your work.”

BC First Nations members remember their loved ones during the ‘Button Blanket Ceremony’.

The goals of the conference included increasing awareness and knowledge for health romotion, prevention and complications associated with diabetes. It also provided an atmosphere to network and share among health care workers to support healthy lifestyles, and to promote culturally appropriate education for First Nations people with diabetes and Community Health Care Workers.

Diabetes is an issue that affects many First Nations communities for a number of reasons including the loss of traditional land base and foods, economic factors and a reliance upon western diets and medicines. This conference plays an important role in spreading awareness and education related to diabetes in First Nations communities.

Educational topics included food sovereignty, natural and holistic nutrition, focusing on traditional foods, diabetes 101, colonization and health, and the balance triangle that focuses on treatment, nutrition and activity to address diabetes. The event also revealed the provincial ‘Button Blanket Project’ that aims to raise awareness about diabetes in BC communities by honouring those who have lost loved ones to diabetes. Conference attendees and others have gathered buttons together that will be sewn on the blanket by First Nations Elders and when the blanket is complete it will travel to communities around BC. The number of attendees who took the stage to offer buttons showed that diabetes impacts many First Nations communities and families throughout BC.

For more information connect with the interim First Nations Health Authority online: www.fnhc.ca

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