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Diabetes in the Tsuut’ina First Nation Community

Diabetes is a malignant issue amongst members of the Tsuut’ina First Nation Community. Studies indicate that the health concern is most prevalent amongst the members of the community. The need to address the issue necessitates the careful analysis of the issue within the community context. Prevalence of the chronic illness in the specific community makes it ideal for the analysis. The community as partner model offers the most suitable approach for the analysis. Personal health practices and coping skills, culture, income, and social status are the main health determinants used in the study. A partial analysis of diabetes in the Tsuut’ina First Nation community is major health informs diagnosis of the areas of health need.

Diabetes in the Tsuut’ina First Nation Community

The Rationale for the Tsuut’ina First Nation Community

Tsuut’ina first nation is a far-reaching cultural and linguistic community. The community is part of the Dene families of North America, whose ancestors occupied central and northwestern Canada. According to Filice (2020), they occupied the Denedeh region, which spans from the Mackenzie River Valley to the Barren Grounds. Other families related to the Tsuut’ina community include Tlicho, South Slavey, Northern and Southern Tutchone, and Kaska Dena, amongst others. Together, they form a community of about 27,340 people, as indicated in the 2016 census. History indicates the Tsuut’ina as traditional hunters and gatherers. However, their modern-day main sources of livelihood are real estate and cattle farming. Members of the community are working towards the revivification of traditional economic activities for the economic empowerment of the community. Their children attend band-operated public schools. However, some attend separate schools in Calgary. The Tsuut’ina people are known to honor traditional knowledge and its holders. They engage the people who have this knowledge in a quest to preserve it for posterity. They also work towards the creation of healthy reciprocal relationships amongst members of the community.

Of particular concern in the Tsuut’ina First Nation community is the high number of diabetes cases. The Tsuut’ina community is amongst the most affected group in Canada. People from the community are mainly susceptible to Type 2 diabetes mellitus, which has a 90-95% incidence rate amongst Canadians. According to Halseth (2019), First Nation communities are the most affected faction in the country. About 17.2% of the First Nation community populace in reserve is affected. Off-reserve, about 10.3% of them suffer from the illness and its complications. These percentages are significantly higher than the national percentage, which ranges at about 5.0%. An estimated 10% of the total Tsuut’ina population suffers from the illness. This percentage is high, considering that more people are suffering from pre-diabetes and others who have not undertaken tests for the same. They consume the largest percentage of the amount allocated to the management of chronic illness. People above 18 years from the First Nation communities have an 8-10 lifetime risk. In contrast, non-First Nation communities have a lifetime risk of 5-10. These figures indicate a need to address the issue to improve the welfare of the Tsuut’ina community.

The high risk of contracting chronic illness amongst the First Nation communities is subject to several complex factors. The main ones are within the biomedical and Indigenous confinements.  In the biomedical perspective, the main assumption is that there is an underlying cause that is common amongst all the affected persons. If eliminated, the causative factor would result in the betterment of the community’s health status. If it is the sole factor, its elimination would mean eliminating the chronic illness. In the case of diabetes, the biomedical approach solely considers physical factors, such as age, family genetics, malnutrition, and history of other illnesses amongst others. For example, obesity is common amongst people from the Tsuut’ina. However, reality eliminates the possibility of such a situation. Other factors cause the illness in the community. The indigenous perspective takes a holistic approach to health. It considers the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual aspects. In this perspective, the effects of colonization may be amongst the main factors leading to the high prevalence of type 2 diabetes amongst the Tsuut’ina.  For example, it oppressed them in the emotional and mental health aspects.

Assessment Methods Used

Conducting a partial assessment of the Tsuut’ina First Nation Community demands the use of a promising model. According to Vollman & Jackson (2020), assessing the health of a community or population is a systemic process. It entails familiarizing oneself with the community and its population. For this reason, the best approach to use is forging a meaningful relationship with the community in question. It is through making a partnership with the community that one can successfully execute the assessment phase. The model that is most qualified to achieve this objective is Community as Partner. It entails the formulation of partnerships that use evidence-based approaches to involve the community in meaningful work. It considers the culture of the community and empowers its members to address the issue with a hands-on approach. Using the model, it is possible to assess Tsuut’ina First Nation Community’s issue of the prevalence of diabetes mellitus.

The community as a partner model offers several other perks that are essential to the assessment process. Amongst them is facilitating the process of inquiry (Vollman & Jackson, 2020). It prompts the creation of a partnership that can present relevant information about the community and the major health issue. For example, through partnership, it will be easy to find out the root causes of the social stressors that may be increasing the prevalence of the community to the chronic illness. It is also working towards the reduction of health problems. In the Tsuut’ina situation, this feature will assist in assessing various social determinants and the circumstances of the Denedeh region. In comparison, it has several advantages above the population health promotion model. For example, it approaches the community’s health as the collective effort of individuals and organizations who dedicate their resources towards promoting the health of the population bound by geographical or cultural ties. Doing so will ensure that the assessment is all-inclusive.

Three determinants of health in the Tsuut’ina First Nation community will be considered in the assessment. They include personal health practices, coping skills, culture, income, and social status (Zhang, Padilla, and Kim, 2017). It is paramount to consider each of them since they affect all people in the community. Personal health practices and coping skills will guide the assessment of how individuals cater to their health and their choices to ensure that they live healthy lifestyles. It will assess several activities, including but not limited to exercising and ensuring the intake of healthy diets. In culture, the community as a partnership approach will address the issues of perceptions, emotions, beliefs, and preservation or abandonment of traditions, amongst others. Assessing the culture will provide in-depth information on the influence of the current acceptable ways of life on the health of the community. Similarly, examining the income and social status will provide information on the economic welfare of the people of Tsuut’ina First Nation Community.


Analysis of the Information Gathered


Data collected about diabetes in the Tsuut’ina First Nation Community can be analyzed for meaning. In personal practices and coping skills, individuals in the community are increasingly engaging in unhealthy activities. Amongst them are failure to engage in physical activities and the failure of pregnant women to check on their weight.  From the perspective of culture, the high level of prevalence of diabetes is inherently linked to the processes of colonization. Colonization, both historic and modern, has continuously introduced unhealthy practices. In response, people in the Tsuut’ina First Nation community have been continuously abandoning traditional practices and adapting those of their colonial masters. For example, normalizing the consumption of fast foods instead of cooking healthy meals. The two determinants are weighty, although the most impactful is the income and social status of the community. Evidence indicates that the Tsuut’ina First Nation community has been experiencing high poverty rates due to colonization and marginalization. Combined with the two, high unemployment rates amongst members of the community have been proliferating food insecurity and the inability to purchase healthy meals.


Reluctance to cater to individual health needs, loss of culture, and economic deprivation are the main factors affecting diabetes in the Tsuut’ina First Nation Community. According to the National Halseth (2019), people in First Nation communities suffer from health illiteracy. It is for this reason that they ignore the importance of consuming balanced diets and the right amounts of food. For example, pregnant women in the community consume unhealthy foods, which leads to the birth of obese children. Health illiteracy also leads to the inability of individuals to manage chronic illness.  For this reason, a large number of women in the community suffer from Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM). It is paramount that the community as a partner model addresses the issue of reluctance to cater to individual health needs. The issue of loss of culture addresses the normalization of unhealthy practices. The Tsuut’ina First Nation community lost its spirituality and traditional lifestyles that were healthier. Assimilation and socio-cultural disruption play a major role in increasing the risk of contracting previously unknown chronic illnesses. Similarly, displacement and socio-economic marginalization have been exposing them to poor living standards.


The processes of colonization have impacted the Tsuut’ina community in its entirety. According to Halseth (2019), the community has suffered both the erosion of culture and deprivation of important resources. Both historical and contemporary processes have prompted the abandonment of traditional lifestyles, such as hunting and gathering. Instead, people have normalized unhealthy activities, such as embarking on sedentary lifestyles. Reduced activity, combined with the consumption of fatty foods, precede suffering from chronic illnesses, such as hypertension and diabetes. The processes of colonization are also to blame for the stressors that increase the risk of diabetes mellitus. For example, the processes resulted in the creation of systemic disadvantages for the indigenous community. High unemployment levels, power imbalances, discrimination, and racism have been propagating poverty in the community. It is for this reason that its people have inadequate access to healthy foods. The result of consuming simple sugars and saturated fats is a heightened risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, and diabetes. The community needs to comprehensively address colonization and its effects.

Rationale For Community Diagnosis

Diabetes in the Tsuut’in First Nation community is mainly a result of colonization. Various pieces of evidence support this diagnosis. According to MacDonald & Steenbeek (2015), the Aboriginal people are the main culprits of the past and ongoing colonization. Since its advent, the communities have been experiencing inequalities in health and access to economic opportunities. Also, unfavorable socio-political issues have been a major cause of difficulties amongst the First Nation communities. Colonization first affected the community by stripping them of their land. The European colonial masters forcibly acquired the Aboriginals’ land without consideration for consequences. Members of the First Nation communities faced health in the new environments. The new environments were less productive and were largely isolated from places where they could have sourced a variety of foods. It is during the past colonial era that the health of the communities started declining. It was further excavated by the inadequacy of health facilities in the regions where they lived.

After independence, the effects of colonization continued affecting the Tsuut’ina and other First Nation communities. According to MacDonald & Steenbeek (2015), the government that replaced the colonial masters was characterized by inequality in power, racism, and unfair distribution of resources.  It propagated the problems that were already affecting the First Nation communities by supporting the existing systemic disadvantages. The results were widespread unemployment and poverty. Poverty minimizes their ability to engage in recreational physical activities. It also limits their purchasing power to unhealthy manufactured foods. Worse still, communities in the First Nation were forced to cope with unfairly distributed health systems. For example, health facilities are inadequate in their areas of residence to date. Inadequacy in healthcare translates to poor health in the marginalized community. Amongst urban-dwellers, people from the First Nation communities have minimal access to health benefits. Several barriers prevent them from accessing non-insured health benefits, which worsens their wellbeing. These and other hurdles facilitate the progression of diabetes amongst them. From another dimension, colonization was the main cause of the erosion of the culture that previously enabled them to consume healthy diets.


Analyzing the issue of diabetes in the Tsuut’ina First Nation Community offers actionable information for use in addressing the issue. The health concern is rampant amongst members of the community in question. The Community as Partner model best guides the assessment process since it is evidence-based and engages the community in addressing the issue. Personal health practices and coping skills, culture, income, and social status are the most relevant health determinants that best serve the needs of the analysis. The partial analysis indicates that issues related to colonization and its processes demand the greatest attention in addressing the issue of diabetes in the Tsuut’ina First Nation Community.  Addressing them may mean better health for the marginalized community. Order An Essay.


Filice, M. (2020). Tsuut’ina (Sarcee). The Canadian Encyclopedia.

Halseth, R. (2019). Prevalence Of And Trends In Diabetes Among First Nations. National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health.

Macdonald, C., & Steenbeek, A. (2015). The Impact of Colonization and Western Assimilation on Health and Wellbeing of Canadian Aboriginal People: Semantic Scholar. undefined.

Seitz, P., & Hill, S. L. (2019). Language, Culture, and Pedagogy: A Response to a Call for Action. In Education, 25(2), 59–72.

Vollman, A. R., & Jackson, S. F. (2020). Canadian community as partner: Theory & multidisciplinary practice. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Zhang, A., Padilla, Y. C., & Kim, Y. (2017). How Early do Social Determinants of Health Begin to Operate? Results From the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 37, 42–50.




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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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