The Wisdom Path

The Wisdom Steps Path is a program to help Native American elders decide for themselves how they want to obtain and maintain opitmal health.  Wisdom Steps provides tools and education.  Elders volunteer to participate and in return they are recognized for their efforts through small incentives and awards.  Elders are invited to “share their wisdom” and participate in activities that promotes good health.  Wisdom Steps promotes incentives for elders to be involved in health screenings, health education and healthy living activities.  Wisdom Steps encourages the coordination of community resources and strives to motivate elders to participate in tribal and urban American Indian community health and social initiatives.

“Before I became involved in Wisdom Steps, I was a couch potato.  I was really not motivated to do much of anything, I didn’t see the need. Then, when I was at the doctor for a Wisdom Steps health check-up, they found leveled PSA levels. I had the possible beginnings of prostate cancer, it was quickly treated and I’m fine.  If it wasn’t for Wisdom Steps, I would not have found out about my PSA levels, until it was maybe too late to easily treat”
– Leonard Well, White Earth Elder

How Can I Walk the Wisdom Steps Path?

Incentive Plan for Wisdom Steps:

A simple incentive plan encourages Elder participation in Wisdom Steps. Elders must complete five health screenings and one of the other below activities to qualify for a Wisdom Steps pin, charm, certificate each year and attend our annual awards dinner/conference:

Elders must complete four mandatory health screenings:
+ Blood Pressure
+ Blood Glucose
+ Cholesterol
+ Weight

Complete 1 or more health screenings below:

Pap Smear Flu Shot Colon Exam
Prostate Exam Mammogram Foot Exam
Dental Exam Hearing Test Vision/Glaucoma Test
Pneumovax Mental Health Screen Medicine Talk

Complete an additional 1 or more health activities below:
+ Health Education: Attend a Reservation / Urban / Regional Health Fair.
+ Healthy Living Activity: Participate in an organized walk or routine exercise

Assessing your needs

To do appropriate planning for Wisdom Steps, it is important for communities to visit with their Elders and ask them to self assess their needs. The National Resource Center on Native American Aging (NRCNAA) provided Wisdom Steps with the self-assessment tool called “Identifying Our Needs: A Survey of Elders.” The assessments focus on three major goals: 1) Identifying important issues for your community; 2) locating options for responding to the issues; and 3) assessing the options and charting action plans.

To date the NRCNAA has received completed assessments from eight tribal and urban Indian communities in Minnesota.

Elders in MN identified themselves…
39% are current smokers
41% do not exercise
46% have either fair or poor health
49% have arthritis
56% are overweight

Wisdom Steps focuses on the following three preventive health primary components:

Health Screenings:

Elders are encouraged to practice good preventive health by visiting their physicians and setting personal health goals. To help Elders better understand their health needs, they are encouraged to have annual screenings for blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol and weight. Elders are encouraged to consider other preventive health screenings such as hearing, vision, glaucoma, mammogram, pap smear, prostate, dental, foot clinic, colon rectal, flu shot and pneumovax. Educational materials are being developed to help Elders understand the meaning of these screening results and how these affect their health and well being.

Health Education:

Medicare in American Indian Community
Elders determined that it is important for Wisdom Steps to provide culturally acceptable education about preventive health programs. They decided their first educational project would be to develop Medicare information materials that would be more easily understood by Elders. “Medicare In American Indian Communities” includes teaching manuals for Elder advocates and learning packets for individual Elders.

Indian health providers and elder advocates are invited to annual trainings to learn about Medicare updates, Medicare Savings Programs and Medicaid. American Indian Community and Senior LinkAge Line staff work together to provide increased opportunities for local Medicare education sessions. They will also help communities with the identification of Medicare eligible elders and assist with the application, enrollment and re-certification process.

Arthritis Education
Currently we are developing this model project. We have developed our Wisdom Steps Arthritis Brochure to help us create awareness for our Arthritis Self-Help Course and inform people with arthritis where they can get help. We will be training community teams to include health staff and community members with arthritis who will teach six week community education sessions in their respective reservation and urban communities.

The Arthritis Foundation North Central Chapter can be contacted by calling 1-800-333-1380 for informational brochures on a variety of arthritis topics.

Healthy Living Activities:

Participating in healthy living activities, such as routine exercise or regular walking, eating a proper diet, visiting with family and friends, joining talking circles and doing activities that make you feel good, are important to good health. Elders organize a statewide walk each year, and individual communities host walks on the local level.