Cherokee Nation’s Diabetes Prevention Coordinator on National Panel

Tonya Wapskineh

Tonya Wapskineh

SAN DIEGO — Cherokee Nation’s longtime Diabetes Prevention Coordinator Tonya Wapskineh is serving on the Sixth Annual Native American Health Care Conference panel in San Diego May 17-19.

Wapskineh, of Tahlequah, will share with other tribes the Cherokee Nation’s work to prevent diabetes. Last year, 79 Cherokee citizens referred to the program by doctors as having pre-diabetes either remained pre-diabetic or now have blood sugar levels in the normal range.

None in the program progressed to diabetes.

“I’m excited to be a panelist for a national conference focused on diabetes prevention,” Wapskineh said. “I want to let other American Indians know that their tribes can do prevention programs as well, and with a limited budget. The results that our participants have are amazing.”

Cherokee Nation’s Health Services department, which operates eight health centers and W.W. Hastings Hospital, treats more patients for diabetes, typically about 10,000, than any other disease.

Diabetes causes high blood sugar when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin. It is a major cause of kidney failure, heart disease and stroke.

The tribe uses a $397,000 per year federal grant for prevention programs. They recruit patients prone for the disease and have the patients work with coaches to increase physical activity and promote healthy eating. Participants are monitored and weigh in weekly at classes held throughout the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction.

Wapskineh has worked for the Cherokee Nation since 2005 and is a certified Zumba instructor, starting the first free classes for tribal citizens and employees four years ago. She has a bachelor of science from Oklahoma State University, Master of Public Health from the University of Oklahoma and is a Certified Health Education Specialist.

For more information about the Sixth Annual Native American Health Care Conference visit or to reach Wapskineh email

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  1. Jessica Marshall 5 years ago
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