Project Title: Navajo Warrior Project: Use of Sports Nutrition Intervention in the Navajo Nation
Project Type: Program Plan
The Navajo people experience high rates of diabetes and obesity. Compared with youth in the rest of the U.S., the Navajo youth, which is the largest age demographic among Navajos, has an alarmingly high rate of Type 2 diabetes. This is believed to be a result of the Navajo Nation’s harsh climate and poor historical agriculture availability since the arrival of Europeans. Nutrition plays a key role in diabetes prevention. Good nutrition is also integral to improving exercise performance, and when paired with regular exercise, it can lead to an overall healthy lifestyle. The Navajo have a unique tie to running as a cultural pastime. As such, a sports nutrition education program that improves nutritional knowledge and behaviors for healthy eating can improve this health disparity. Using evidence-based interventions for sports nutrition education, this plan will provide a curriculum that can be taught to athletic teams of the area high schools, where there are high rates of obesity and diabetes among students.
What compelled you to choose this topic for your project?
As a dietician, obesity goes hand in hand with our daily work and patient load. After working with professional sports teams overseas, I felt an urge to address obesity within the United States through sports nutrition. In researching my practicum options, spending some time with the Indian Health Service seemed like a great challenge. After starting a position on the Navajo Nation, it was clear that sports nutrition was really being ignored as a venue for nutrition and health outreach.
What was your favorite aspect of the culminating experience (CE) project?
The CE is significant to the MPH@GW experience because it can so easily be integrated into one’s professional career, or it can be a stepping-stone to a new trail in life. I think I was blessed to have both of these occur; I was able to use nutrition and start anew within the Indian Health Service and Commissioned Corps.
How do you hope to apply the skills you learned during your project in your career?
My practicum experience paved the way for my culminating experience to happen, and through the process, my position offered me a better opportunity to understand the Commissioned Corps of the United States, which I applied to and was accepted. I now serve as an officer for the Commissioned Corps within the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s Indian Health Service system.