TIMMINS – The fourth annual Timmins Diabetes Expo held on October 18 and 19 has helped to make sure that the fight against diabetes is being won in Northern Ontario. Aboriginal organizations and area health care agencies have been working together for four years in prevention, awareness, education and support concerning diabetes through events targeted to professionals, the public at large and school children. This year’s event featured nationally renowned speaker Dr. Michael Vallis, a Clinical Psychologist who specializes in diabetes and Melissa Kelly, Professional Dance instructor and owner and operator of the Melissa Kelly Dance Academy (MKDA) in Timmins, Ontario.
Timmins Diabetes Expo Committee Chairs Julie St Onge, Canadian Diabetes Association and Richard Aubin, Metis Nation of Ontario commented that the two day event has increased its reach to professionals and the public by at least 50 percent.
“We have a great committee dedicated to this event and some really wonderful sponsors who I want to thank for their support,” said St Onge.
The two day expo featured three separate events with Dr Vallis speaking to health care professionals and the public at large while Kelly facilitated a series of workshops to local school children.
Dr Vallis’s message in his workshops centred around his expertise in behaviour sciences with a focus on encouraging change in relation to managing diabetes. He did so through a presentation punctuated with humour and helpful tips.
“My job today is knowledge translation which is to take behaviour sciences and present them to nurses and dieticians who can incorporate the basic skills to their practice. I am also trying my best to encourage the public to recognize that through behaviour change they can better manage diabetes,” said Dr Vallis.
The professional event was held at the Porcupine Health Unit and featured a workshop to local health care professionals in person and through live teleconferencing using the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) to health care workers in Kapuskasing, Kirkland Lake, New Liskeard, North Bay, Moose Factory, Fort Albany and Hearst.
“It is important for us as Aboriginal Health Care professionals to provide as much assistance as possible to our people and the public at large to combat what has become an epidemic in First Nation communities dealing with diabetes,” said Peggy Claveau of Misiway Milopemahtesewin and Timmins Diabetes Expo committee member.
The public and school childrens event were held at the Centre Cultural LaRonde. The children’s workshops focused on movement and exercise with instruction by dance professional Kelly.
“My goal was to promote health and fitness through the enjoyment of dance. Dancing is the best form of physical activity at any age because it is fun, there is music and it doesn’t feel like work. I enjoy working with children and being able to assist with the community,” said Kelly.
A cultural workshop was also led by Claveau that incorporated traditional crafts and aboriginal teachings on health. Committee members Hillary Deyne and Robert Smith, also held a healthy eating workshop titled ‘Think About Your Drink’ which focused on healthy drinking choices for children.
Schools that participated in the event included: W. Earle Miller Public School, St. Paul Separate School and Pinecrest Public School in Timmins and Mary Jane Memorial Elementary School in Mattagami First Nation.
“I had fun learning about health and fitness and it was cool to learn about Native culture,” said 11 year old Joel Wood, a grade six student from W. Earle Miller Public School.
The public event was opened and closed by the Omushkegowuk Mother Clan Singers, an all women’s traditional drum group.
The event was a one stop information source which featured displays by area organizations. Sponsors included Northern Diabetes Health Network, Canadian Diabetes Association, Wabun Health Services, Timmins Native Friendship Centre, Misiway Milopemahtesewin, Metis Nation of Ontario, Porcupine Health Unit, VON Diabetes Education Centre, Timmins Family Health Team and the Aboriginal People’s Alliance of Northern Ontario.
Timmins Diabetes Expo Committee members include Committee Chairs Julie St. Onge, Canadian Diabetes Association and Richard Aubin, Metis Nation of Ontario; Nathalie Bourgon and Nathalie Guevin, VON Diabetes Education Centre; Jesse Lamothe and Hillary Deyne, Timmins Family Health Team; Rena Buhler, Timmins Native Friendship Centre; Peggy Claveau, Angie Olaveson and Robert Smith, Misiway Milopemahtesewin; Kelly Geddes, Aboriginal Peoples Association of Northern Ontario; Julie McKay, Wabun Health Services and Mike McDonald, Porcupine Health Unit.
Story and photographys by Xavier Kataquapit.