Healthcare continues to be an unknown.

How decision makers at the federal and state level will reform current laws remains up in the air. While the debate continues, there are those on the ground who are not waiting to see what policies are put in place, because they know what is most important is ensuring the people receive care they need in the best way possible.

Many of those entities are blazing trails in health care, and those efforts are not going unnoticed.

In fact, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has been recognizing some of those efforts and the people behind them as healthcare trailblazers.

Among those Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has recognized is the Lower Sioux Indian Community.

According to Scott Keefer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota vice-president of public affairs, the intent of the trailblazer recognition is to step back and take a look at what is working and to let others know about it.

That way, the successes can be replicated to insure everyone is being served well and is seeing healthy outcomes.

“We all can learn from what others are doing,” said Keefer, adding what is happening at Lower Sioux is something that can really make a difference statewide.

It is no secret there are health disparities that exist among the Native American people in Minnesota, said Keefer, adding at Lower Sioux the narrative is changing thanks to efforts by people like Stacy Hammer, a registered dietitian who works with the overall health and nutrition programming that is being offered for the people who call the Lower Sioux their home. Tribal leadership for the Lower Sioux has invested in the health of people by bringing people like Hammer in to work with people of all ages. 

Hammer will admit she is not doing the work alone, adding the success of healthy lifestyles comes when there are several people all expressing the same message.

Through the new Lower Sioux healthcare center, that message is being shared by a number of health professionals who work in different areas of wellness. The efforts being implemented focus in prevention through things like healthier eating, physical fitness and even social interaction.

One of the events that has been very popular at Lower Sioux is diabetes bingo.

According to Hammer, the event brings people together in a fun environment where they can meet with other people, enjoy a nutritious meal, gain some new education and have a little bit of fun along the way.

Although the diabetes bingo program is geared toward the elders of the community, Hammer said efforts to educate others, including the youngest generation of tribal members, is going on regularly.

While getting the older generation to change their ways is important, Hammer said working with the young people on the tribe and providing them education about health eating can help them from going down the wrong path in the first place.

Hammer said the diabetes bingo program was originally started by another tribe and the local tribe’s public health nurse introduced it, adding the whole idea is to engage people in a dialogue about being healthy.

It has become one of the most popular events of the month.

Hammer said ideas being implemented are making a difference, adding people are also feeling a sense of pride in knowing they are making decisions that are good for them.

Photo courtesy of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota