Native Americans are more likely to be overweight and develop diabetes than other ethnic groups. After reviewing Pokagon Health Services data, health practitioner Shanta Clark recognized that seventy percent of adult PHS patients were overweight. Many of them suffered from chronic conditions as a result of being overweight.
Clark and other health care providers know from research that if an overweight person loses five to ten percent of his or her body weight and keeps the weight off, noteworthy health benefits follow. Many chronic conditions associated with obesity, like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, depression and joint pain, can be reduced. Clark urged PHS leadership to open a supervised weight loss clinic to address this need and help patients improve their health.
By the end of the clinic’s first month in February this year, 36 patients had their first visit to the weight management program. Overall, 68 patients have enrolled in the program and have come to at least one visit in 2019.
“Shanta Clark spearheaded this clinic,” said Matt Clay, director of Pokagon Health Services. “She saw a need and she's done a phenomenal job to make it come to fruition. She was the catalyst behind it.”
Goals are set by the patient with the assistance of the clinician and are not necessarily always weight-based; some want to lose a certain amount of body fat or inches. Clinicians collect aggregate data on weight, body mass index, abdominal circumference, percent of weight lost, and percent body fat lost. For individual patients, body measurements are taken to see how many inches they lose in different parts of the body.
“Given the notoriously high attrition rate and lack of successful weight loss in many of these programs, I’m very impressed with what has happened so far,” said Gerald Morris MD, PHS medical director. “Shanta has dedicated several hours of her personal time to make sure this program was the right fit for our patients and clinic. She sincerely cares about the health of both our patients and greater tribal community.”
For the 40 patients who made it to three months in the program, the average weight loss per person was just over 4 percent. For the 26 patients who have made it to six months into the program, the average weight loss per person was 7.5 percent.
Joel Genereaux is a patient in the weight management clinic, and since January 2 he’s lost 140 pounds and 34 total inches.
“Shanta helped with showing me what to eat, how much to eat,” he said. “I started off meeting with her once a week and now I see her once every two months for weigh ins and measurements. I go to the gym every day, which I’ve never said that before. I started off walking at 2.5 miles per hour for 20 minutes and that almost killed me. Now I'm up to walking for an hour at 4 miles per hour.”
Like other weight loss clinic patients, Genereaux has met with PHS’s Wellness Center staff and dietician to talk about nutrition and exercising. He reports he’s sleeping a lot better, has more energy, and is no longer taking high blood pressure medication.
“I think it is a great idea,” said Genereaux, who would recommend the clinic to other Pokagons. “Shanta’s great, very knowledgeable. I thank her for helping me add more years to my life for myself and my family.”