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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
June 21, 2004
Volume 39, Number 16

Branch campus/state news

Gallup launches diabetes prevention program

By Linda Thornton

Many Native American populations suffer from a high incidence of diabetes. Among the reasons is a lack of education about what constitutes a healthy diet, inadequate resources to grow their own food and remoteness from sources of healthful food.

UNM-Gallup Diabetes Coordinator Rosemary Anslow, center, works with a group of students on diabetes prevention strategies.

Another reason is a recent, historical switch from a healthy high fiber and nutritious diet to one high in empty calories found in sugar-laden snacks.

While many initiatives exist to help treat the problems associated with diabetes, all too few address diabetes prevention among native populations. Spurred by the belief that prevention is better than treating the large-scale problems that come with the onset of diabetes, the University of New Mexico-Gallup has launched a major diabetes prevention initiative that appears to be the first of its kind among community colleges in the country.

“This is diabetes prevention, not care or management. Prevention is always better than cure.”

-Rosemary Anslow

UNM-Gallup, situated in the heart of Indian country between the vast Navajo Reservation and Zuni Pueblo, is strategically located to service native as well as Hispanic populations, which also suffer a high incidence of diabetes.

As of this school year, the branch campus began offering a certificate and an associate degree for “diabetes prevention specialist.”

The program will help train health workers who take their training back to the Navajo reservation, composed of small rural communities scattered over an area the size of West Virginia, and also back to the smaller Zuni Pueblo.

These native communities are made up of largely rural people, many whom are elderly, and/or live at poverty level.

Education about diet and exercise is sorely lacking. As a result, the incidence of diabetes is among the highest in the nation and third or fourth highest in the world.

Rosemary Anslow, diabetes coordinator, heads the program. Anslow, who has been working with diabetes since 1997, started this phase of her career as a volunteer and later earned her master’s in global diabetes issues from Arizona’s Prescott College.

UNM-Gallup’s program, while focused on graduating diabetes prevention specialists, has another component. “The program will serve families and communities, enabling the graduate to provide diabetes expertise to community agencies or institutions, such as schools, fitness centers, private medical or dental practice,” Anslow said.

Anslow also notes that it is not only Native populations in New Mexico who suffer from a high incidence of diabetes, but New Mexicans as a whole. Again, the reasons point to lack of education about a healthful diet as well as the population’s remoteness and a lack of accessibility to nutritional food.

Those seeking a certificate for diabetes prevention specialist will take 31 credit hours of coursework.

An associate of science degree as a diabetes prevention specialist requires an additional 40 credits in general education courses, such as communications, arts, humanities and social sciences, and math, natural and behavioral science.

In addition to heading this program, Anslow will oversee the college’s new diabetes program at Smith Lake Elementary School in Crownpoint, about 50 miles northeast of Gallup.

The focus will be on community outreach and prevention education.

Anslow says she sees this program as a means of creating a new focus on diabetes prevention rather than alarmist news about increasing rates of diabetes.

“We want to approach this issue from another angle,” she said. “This is diabetes prevention, not care or management. Prevention is always better than cure.”

Zuni campus grows

Officially dedicated in fall 2002, the UNM-Gallup South Campus in Zuni Pueblo - fondly known as a branch campus’ twig - is adding classes and building enrollment.

Program Manager Erin Collins, hired last year, has moved ahead with initiatives designed to create interest in course offerings and to serve the local community.

Collins has worked to overcome some of the challenges resulting from Zuni’s remote location. Part of her job is traveling to area schools. By fall 2003, enrollment climbed to 326, the highest reported. Collins says the campus offers more than 30 college courses and several technical education classes. Regular offerings include business and construction tech, psychology and English. Courses planned include nutrition, medical terminology and beginning Zuni language. For information, call 505-782-6012.