Zhiiwaapenewin Akino´Maagewin: Teaching to Prevent Diabetes

Zhiiwaapenewin Akino´Maagewin

Primary Aims

  • Improve the availability of healthy foods in local stores.

  • Promote the purchase and consumption of healthy food alternatives through schools, stores, and health/social services channels.

  • Increase the levels of physical activity among all community members.

  • Evaluate how successful the programs are in increasing knowledge and improving eating patterns and physical activity.

Project Features

  • 9 month intervention period:

    • Round 1 – September 2005-June 2006
    • Round 2 – September 2006-June 2007
  • Involves 7 First Nations and schools, stores, and health providers serving them.

  • Messages developed with approval and participation of community leaders.

The expanded trial will include a revised program based on the results of the feasibility study to be implemented in two rounds in 18-20 First Nations in Ontario and Manitoba, Canada and American Indian Tribes in Michigan and Wisconsin, USA.


Diabetes is one of the major causes of morbidity and mortality in aboriginal Canadians. This and other chronic diseases are related to a changing lifestyle. Increasing physical activity levels and eating a diet that is low in fat and sugar and high in fiber are parts of improving lifestyle.

Project Leaders

  • Joel Gittelsohn, PhD
  • Stewart Harris, MD
  • Sangita Sharma, PhD
  • Anthony Hanley, PhD
  • Bernard Zinman, MD
  • Lara Ho, MHS, RN
  • Elizabeth Ford, MA
  • Amanda Rosecrans
  • Stephanie Oppenheimer

Project Reports

Communication Methods and Materials


  • Owners encouraged to stock healthy food choices
  • Shelf labels to identify healthy foods
  • Cooking demonstrations and taste tests


  • Workshops and events
  • Band offices encouraged to make healthier options available

Mass Media:

  • Radio/TV announcements of key events and themes
  • Cartoons and notices in band and school newsletters
  • Posters, flyers and recipe cards


  • 3rd and 4th grade healthy living curriculum
  • Principals encouraged to provide healthy food choices and ban junk foods


  • Ho LS*, Gittelsohn J, Harris SB, and Ford E. (2006) “Development of an integrated diabetes prevention program with First Nations in Canada,” Health Promotion International, Jun;21(2):88-97. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16407394
  • Rosecrans AM*, Gittelsohn J, Ho LS*, Harris S, Nagshbandi M, Sharma S, (2007) “Process Evaluation of a Multi-institutional Community-based Program for Diabetes Prevention among First Nations,” Health Education Research, Jul 26; [Epub ahead of print]. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17639123
  • Sharma S, Cao X, Gittelsohn J, Ho LS*, Ford E, Rosecrans A*, Hanley A, Zinman B. (2007) “Dietary intake and development of a quantitative food frequency questionnaire for a lifestyle intervention to reduce risk of chronic diseases in Canadian First Nations.” Public Health Nutrition, Dec 7:1-10 [Epub ahead of print]. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18062840
  • Ho LS, Gittelsohn J, Rimal R, Treuth M, Sharma S, Rosecrans A, Harris SB, (2008) “An integrated multi-institutional diabetes prevention program improves knowledge and healthy food acquisition in northwestern Ontario First Nations,” Health Education and Behavior, May 2. [Epub ahead of print] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18456866
  • Ho LS*, Gittelsohn J, Sharma S, Cao X, Treuth M, Rimal R, Harris SB (2008). “Food related behavior, physical activity, and dietary intake in First Nations – a population at high risk for diabetes,” Ethnicity and Health, Sep;13(4):335-49. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18701993
  • Kumar M, GittelsohnJ, HoLS*, RosecransA*, RimalR, HarrisSB, SharmaS, “Exposure to components of a diabetes risk behavior prevention program associated with improvements in psychosocial and dietary factors and body mass index,” (Manuscript submitted to Health Promotion International, March 2008).
  • Ho LS, Gittelsohn J, Rosecrans A, Sharma S, McGinnis M and Harris S.  “Understanding variability in participation: Context and stakeholder roles in a First Nations diabetes prevention program” (under review Social Science and Medicine).

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