Objectives: To describe the background, approach and general results of the Center for Alaska Native Health Research (CANHR) study.
Study design: This was a cross-sectional Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) study with one tribal group to assess risk and protection for obesity and the risk factors related to chronic disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Methods: A combination of biological, genetic, nutritional and psychosocial measurements were taken on 922 Alaska Native participants in ten communities in Southwestern Alaska. The paper reports on data from 753 adult participants.
Results: The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is 3.3% in the sample population. Metabolic syndrome is significantly lower among the males and equal for females when compared with Caucasians in the NHANES III sample. Obesity among adults is now at the national average. Risk factors for chronic disease include a shift to a Westernized diet, stress, obesity and impaired fasting glucose and protective factors include high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acid dietary intake. Articles in this issue present specific results in these areas.
Conclusions: The data strongly indicate that, in general, Yup'ik people in our study are metabolically healthy and that diet and life style provide a delicate combination of protective and risk factors. The results strongly indicate that solution focused research utilizing primary and secondary prevention strategies may provide evidence for how to intervene to prevent further increases of chronic diseases. Research that focuses on relating the intrinsic strengths of indigenous worldviews and practices with basic research may contribute to positive transformations in community health.