The Tonto-Apache Tribe hired Cassandra Stouder to educate them on living with Type 2 diabetes and she has not failed them.
On Saturday, Feb. 23 she will hold the Tonto-Apache Pathways Health Fair to educate the Tonto-Apache and surrounding tribes about how to manage and prevent Type 2 diabetes.
“My heart and soul goes out to these people and their suffering,” said Stouder, herself a full-blooded Native American with a Navajo mother and a Seminole father. She said Native Americans have the highest rates of Type 2 diabetes in the United States.
Unlike Type 1 diabetes, which is genetic, Type 2 results from a poor diet and lack of exercise.
“With government policies and processed food, over time (Native Americans) have not been able to adjust to it,” said Stouder.
The most common form of diabetes, Type 2, develops when the body can no longer produce enough insulin or the cells ignore insulin, according to the American Diabetes Association.
How it works: the body breaks down the sugars and starches into glucose, which fuels the cells in the body. Insulin helps the body to use glucose (a form of sugar) as energy by moving sugar from the blood stream into cells. But when too much glucose builds up in the blood, rather than going into cells, it can lead to diabetes.
Complications from diabetes include organ failure, foot and skin complications, high blood pressure, mental health issues and hearing loss.
Stouder said the Tonto Apache, like most Native Americans on reservations, need support to help with a diabetes diagnosis.
“When someone finds out they’re diabetic, usually they get a sheet of paper and told to go home and deal with it,” said Stouder. “It takes a tribe to support a diabetes diagnosis.”
Stouder has devoted her life to exercise, health and diet. She calls herself, “Payson’s hometown fitness trainer, volunteer, health advocate and family-oriented member.”
She has coached a Girls on the Run team and does personal fitness training.
For the past seven months, she has held classes on nutrition and exercise. She said it’s starting to work.
“We have people walk by a class I’m giving and stick their head in to find out what’s going on,” she said. “Interest is starting to bloom.”
Numerous community members and organizations have volunteered to help.
“Payson has opened its arms to support this event,” said Stouder.
Dr. Alan Michels will have a presentation on diabetes care, Gerardo Moceri will have a live cooking demonstration and provide lunch and Native American hoop dancers will provide the Grand Finale Event; others from the community will have booths and make presentations.
“The hoop dancers will engage with the crowd to show how to integrate a different form of exercise into a diabetes management routine,” said Stouder.
She has even recruited a couple of archery hunters from town to come and show how to pack healthy food for a hunting trip and to consider the exercise from a hunt helps manage diabetes.
The event is primarily for the tribe and its employees from the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino, gas station and gym.
She has invited nearby tribes such as the White Mountain, Camp Verde and San Carlos to attend as well.
The event runs from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. in the Tonto Apache Gym behind the casino on Saturday, Feb. 23.