Before Tommy’s presentation today, I was very unaware of the effects of diabetes on a woman’s pregnancy and the ways these effects both reflect and further one’s entrapment in poverty. There is no doubt that poverty has played a role in the outbreak of diabetes, as high-carb, high-sugar foods become increasing common and selected due to their taste and their cost. They satisfy hunger without draining one’s resources. However, the switch from a diet dependent on traditional, low-carb, high-protein foods like cholla buds and teparary beans to cheap high-carb, high-sugar foods has a tremendous impact on one’s health and well-being. Unfortunately, in order to break these eating habits, one has to be financially well-off enough to support a more diverse, more nutritious diet.
As a result of dietary habits, many O’odham individuals end up developing Type II diabetes in their lifetime. I was aware of the effects of diabetes on circulation, leading to amputation, heart trouble, and blindness, but I never considered how a fetus during pregnancy may also be effected. Tommy spoke specifically about how a baby to a mother with diabetes may have a significantly lower birth weight or other health conditions. The rates of low birth rate and other health conditions as well as the rate of infant mortality are significantly higher in the Tohono O’odham Nation than in Arizona or other American Indian nations. This occurrence directly reflects the rate of diabetes throughout the Tohono O’odham Nation as well as the high rate of poverty that frequently leads to the development of diabetes.
These babies born with lower birth weights or other health conditions ultimately end up costing their families about three times as much as a baby born completely healthy. As a result, their families end up even more trapped in impoverished situations, based solely upon factors created initially by poverty. The lack of resources that can cause diabetes and therefore lower birth weights and other conditions ends up putting the families in even more disadvantaged positions with even fewer resources. These families end up in an inescapable trap by poverty and health that may only be broken by substantial aid and intervention. However, it is possible that infant illness and high morality rates may draw enough public empathy to kick-start the necessary intervention in order to save lives.