Mary Lee Beck

Date of Award


Document Type

Independent Study

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




The prevalence of childhood obesity has risen to epidemic proportions in this country. American Indian youth are disproportionately affected by this epidemic and its comorbidities, like diabetes, when compared to whites, and even other minorities. There is no single determinant of cause. Currently interventions are focused at the individual, family, community and environmental levels. Perhaps the most important component in this epidemic, however, is being overlooked: the health status of the mother during pregnancy. There is strong evidence that obesity and diabetes are perpetually cycled from mother to baby during pregnancy, and maternal obesity and diabetes play a significant role in childhood obesity. The landmark study in 1983 with the Pima Indians in Arizona found a 10-fold higher rate of obesity as a result of exposure to a diabetic intrauterine environment. Today there is renewed interest and supporting evidence that confinns the connection of maternal diabetes and obesity in the offspring. An extensive review of literature was conducted and results were presented to the Leech Lake Tribal Health medical staff during a monthly meeting. Health care practitioners must be aware of the current findings and the 2011 guidelines set forth by the American Diabetes Association so that they can not only provide early interventions to prevent and manage diabetes and obesity throughout pregnancy, but into adulthood as well. American Indian women need to be empowered with this knowledge to improve their own health and that of the generations yet to be bom.