National Indian Health Board Makes Case for Continued Diabetes Funding on Capitol Hill

NIHB Chairperson Cathy Abramson with Navajo Nation Vice-President Rex Lee Jim and SDPI Grantees.

NIHB Chairperson Cathy Abramson with Navajo Nation Vice-President Rex Lee Jim and SDPI Grantees.

WASHINGTON – The National Indian Health Board hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill today to bring awareness and showcase the success of the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) in Tribal communities.

“The Special Diabetes Program for Indians is an important federal investment in the health and future of Indian Country because SDPI is a program that’s saving lives, lowering medical costs and demonstrating a significant return on the federal investment. Between 1995 and 2006, the incident rate of End Stage Reneal Disease in American Indian and Alaska Natives living with diabetes fell nearly 28% – a greater decline than any other ethnic group. Given that Medicare cost for one patient on hemodialysis is almost $90,000 per year, this indicator translates into millions of dollars in cost savings for Medicare, Indian Health Service and third-party billing,” said NIHB Chairperson Cathy Abramson. “NIHB encourages Tribal leaders and Members in Congress to continue to step up and fought hard to sustain this important program, and we ask that support is present again for the upcoming reauthorization. SDPI is a program that has proven to help our people become healthier.”

Congress established the SDPI in 1997 as part of the Balanced Budget Act to address the growing epidemic of diabetes in American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities. As SDPI is set to expire in September 2014, the program must be renewed this year to ensure that critical programs across the country may continue. Currently, SDPI provides grants for 404 programs in 34 states.

“The SDPI grants are proving that a modest investment in a high risk population using proven methods can be a successful model to reduce the health disparity of diabetes,” said Sandi Chesebrough, SDPI Coordinator at the Nimkee Diabetes Program with the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan. “SDPI funds have allowed us working in the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribal Community to achieve improved outcomes, create a comprehensive diabetes program, educate the community and see the community educate one another and influence healthier programming within the Tribe and continue to look for ways to improve care with the Diabetes Best Practices.

SDPI funding in Michigan totals $2,777,307, which funds two Healthy Heart programs and 13 Community Directed grant programs.

Becky Price, Diabetes Program Director from the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians in Michigan, said that one of their program’s focus is on ensuring the youth in the community are healthy and exercising so not to develop diabetes as an adult.

“We need that special touch to reach out to the youth and SDPI gives us that special touch. We have to reach them in creative ways. We have to get them out of the risk pool for diabetes early.  We need more success stories,” added Price.

American Indians and Alaska Natives are burdened disproportionately with type 2 diabetes at a rate of 2.8 times the national average.

In California, SDPI funding totals $12,086,979 for seven Diabetes Prevention programs, four Healthy Heart programs and 41 Community Directed grant programs. The Toiyabe Indian Health Project has effectively utilized SDPI program funding to provide exercise opportunities and healthy eating infrastructure for their community members, as well as offer quality medical management to help long-term diabetes patients better manage diabetes-related complications.

“Our health care system is really a disease care system. Our medical providers are mopping up the floor around an overflowing sink. But no one is turning off the faucet! SDPI turns down the faucet,” said Rick Frey, Director of the Preventative Medicine Department at the Toiyabe Indian Health Project. “There’s a strong correlation when SDPI came into existence and when our people started becoming healthier.”

Navajo Nation Vice-President and NIHB Board Member Rex Lee Jim said, “SDPI is a powerful program that is effective and sustains our Native people’s health in the long run.”

“As adults, as heads of the household, we need to lead by example,” added Vice-President Jim. “We need to become a healthier




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  1. S. Winona Magoosh-Begay 5 years ago
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