BLUFF, Utah-On Aug. 29, elderly Navajo men and women along with their middle-aged children drifted in and out of the San Juan Senior Center throughout the day, taking advantage of health screening and nutrition education from the Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Project (NNSDP).
Many came from communities including Mexican Water, Red Mesa, Montezuma Creek and Monument Valley.
Lena Guerito, a nutritionist with the NNSDP Shiprock Service Unit, provided nutrition education while Health Education technician Rosey Jones and Senior Community Health worker Hannabah James provided screenings for glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol.
"This is very good for our Navajo elderly who come here on a regular basis," said Lorraine Mom, San Juan Senior Center director. "I think this is what our people need to hear about nutrition. Ms. Guerito does a very thorough job in explaining what is good to eat, how to prepare healthy meals, and prepares a dish right in front of the people ... they are enjoying the food that is simple and easy to fix."
After sitting through the nutrition presentation, the people took advantage of the health screening area. Some of them were advised that they need to cut back on using sugar and begin exercising while others were told that everything was at a good level.
Jones said that it is hard for people in the area to make healthy lifestyle choices because their water wells were contaminated many years ago by the oil wells and the people resorted to drinking a lot of soda. Many of the people now drink bottled water, but it becomes expensive when you have to provide for a large family, she said.
As part of the demonstration, Guerito made Frito beans. Instead of using Frito chips, however, she substituted blue-corn chips and unsalted chips that she covered with beans, tomatoes, onions, lettuce and cheese. She served this with bottled water and people enjoyed the simple, healthy meal with a smile.
Guerito said the day before she was in Nenahnezah for another health fair where she was able to educate more than 40 people about eating healthy meals.
"We have to keep track of how many people we serve each day for our monthly reports. Some days, it's 40 here and 60 there, but at the end of the month the totals may reach as high as 400 people that we were able to educate about better nutrition," said Guerito. "We also make home visits where we have personal contacts with people who have diabetes, and they share their stories with us, and we try to help them so that they take their medications properly, or prepare meals correctly so that they don't eat too much starchy foods, or sugar and fat," she added.
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