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On Friday, the U.S. Senate voted to fund the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI), the program backing both diabetes care and type 1 diabetes research until the close of 2024 as part of a comprehensive package funding multiple federal agencies. President Biden signed on Saturday, March 9, 2024.

Established by Congress in 1997, the Special Diabetes Program aims to propel type 1 diabetes research forward and tackle the disproportionate impact of type 2 diabetes on American Indian and Alaskan Native communities.

This program comprises two primary facets:

  1. Type 1 diabetes research, managed by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases within the National Institutes of Health.
  2. Support for prevention, education, and treatment initiatives for indigenous populations nationwide, overseen by the Indian Health Service.

The Congressional extension will allocate $160 million annually to each program component, marking a $10 million boost for each area. Notably, this program has not seen an increase in funding since Fiscal Year 2004.

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With over 38 million Americans affected by diabetes, American Indians and Alaskan Natives are nearly three times more likely to receive a diabetes diagnosis than their White counterparts, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC reports that more than 1.7 million adults and 304,000 children and teenagers in the United States have type 1 diabetes.

The research arm of the program has significantly advanced our comprehension and treatment of type 1 diabetes. Notable achievements include contributing to the development of the first medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to delay the onset of type 1 diabetes, pioneering cellular therapies for adults with type 1 diabetes experiencing recurring episodes of dangerously low blood glucose levels, and the creation of several artificial pancreas systems aimed at improving blood glucose management for individuals with the condition.

The Special Diabetes Program for Indians was championed in Congress by the bipartisan co-chairs of the Diabetes Caucus, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), and Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO).

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The Native News Health Desk is made possible by a generous grant from the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation as well as sponsorship support from the American Dental Association. This grant funding and sponsorship support have no effect on editorial consideration in Native News Online. 
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