Karyn Buxman

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What’s So Funny About Diabetes: The Power of Storytelling

How likely are you to develop diabetes? The answer to that question can have a lot to do with what community you belong to.  Diabetes is far more prevalent among some groups of people. If you are a Native person, you are 2.6 times more likely to wind up with diabetes than a non-Hispanic White person. Understanding why that happens is a long, lengthy discussion about complex social and health factors. We could do that – but let’s have some fun instead, and talk about how the Native tradition of storytelling is being used to help educate and empower people with the skills they need for better diabetes management.

According to this great article in The Kansas City Star, Rhonda LaValdo and Teresa Trumbly Lamsam were seeking a way to help combat the epidemic levels of diabetes in the Native community.

Story telling is a traditional part of Native culture for many reasons.  Stories entertain, but they also convey valuable information.  You can learn a lot about a people by listening to their stories. Stories build community. It is the narratives that we tell about ourselves, each other, and the world we live in that form the backbone of our culture.  Stories can also educate. They’re great teaching tools. People remember stories.

LaValdo and Lamsam both teach journalism, and they’ve drawn upon their experience as storytellers and instructors to create Wellbound Storytellers. On this website, Native people who have diabetes are sharing their stories about their own personal journey toward a healthier state.

This is a great idea. While I was researching and writing What’s So Funny About Diabetes?: A Creative Approach to Coping with Your Disease I learned from many people with diabetes how much enjoyment and value they found from sharing their own stories and experiences. People who heard the stories also benefited – especially if the stories are funny. Humor has many physical and emotional health benefits.  When we laugh, our blood pressure goes down. Our stress levels drop. Blood sugar control becomes easier, as the simple act of laughing can help minimize glucose spikes after a meal.

We benefit from humor even if we’ve laughed at the same thing before. Humor also builds bonds between people. A strong sense of community and a common sense of purpose are critical to have if we want to change the impact diabetes has among our people. Educating, empowering, and entertaining: storytelling has the power to change how well we manage our diabetes, individually and collectively.  That’s amazing and amusing!

I encourage you to share your stories about life with diabetes (funny or otherwise!) whenever you find an appropriate setting. Websites like Wellbound Storytellers and Diabetes Daily are a great resource.  We help other and we help ourselves with each and every story!

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