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SHIPROCK — After Lena Guerito carefully shaped dough for blue cornbread, she placed it on top of a hot skillet.

As the dough warmed, its scent filled the auditorium inside the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock.

Guerito, a nutritionist for the Shiprock service area under the Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Program, showed how to prepare and cook blue cornbread as part of the program's Nutrition Summit on July 3.

The three ingredients for the bread are blue cornmeal, juniper ash and hot water.

Guerito noted that juniper ash is a source of calcium and gives the cornbread its distinct deep blue hue.

"This blue cornbread has calcium, potassium and it's great for those that are athletic. If you are a runner then this is a good way of getting your protein and your calcium," she said.

Char Begay, program supervisor for the Shiprock service area, said the two-day summit is one way to provide awareness about health and nutrition.

"We have found that through our community assessment a lot of the communities within the northern region are really in denial about health issues," Begay said.

Each of the special diabetes program service areas are organizing similar nutrition summits. Shiprock was the second area to host the event for residents within the Northern Agency.

Begay said education and prevention help people understand diabetes and the importance of diet, exercise and medical examinations.

"Everybody should be concerned about their health," she said.

Other efforts by the Shiprock service area include reaching out to the 20 chapters in the Northern Agency as well as the 47 schools in the region.

Begay said that prevention is a major part of the program, and that is accomplished through events like the nutrition summit and physical activities.

The service area also operates a wellness center in Teec Nos Pos, Arizona. A second center is planned for Shiprock and a groundbreaking event will be on July 17.

Justin Shorty, a health education technician, talked about genetic history as part of his presentation about healthy coping.

"All I want to say is, understand sometimes these health conditions are out of our control. But for diabetes, we can control whether it happens or not and that's why we are doing this nutrition summit," he said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at

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