Legislative Wrangling: Native American Diabetes Program

Legislative Wrangling: Native American Diabetes Program: Native Americans who live with diabetes may want to continue to watch a developing story that works to provide greater funding for research and support through the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SPDI).

Indian Health Services provides a history of the program, “In response to the diabetes epidemic among American Indians and Alaska Natives, Congress established the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) in 1997. The Special Diabetes Program for Indians is currently a $150 million per year grant program that provides funding for diabetes treatment and prevention services at 399 IHS, Tribal, and Urban Indian health programs in all 12 IHS Areas across the United States. Administered by the IHS Division of Diabetes (DDTP), and with guidance from the Tribal Leaders Diabetes Committee (TLDC), the Special Diabetes Program for Indians grant programs use proven, evidence-based, and community-driven diabetes treatment and prevention strategies that address each stage of the disease.”

A recent press release suggests a new push for added funding, “U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) today introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Special Diabetes Program, a critical public health program that improves diabetes research, treatment and prevention.”

Dorgan said, “Reauthorization of these vital diabetes research programs will help millions of Americans who are suffering from diabetes, particularly in the Native American community, which is dramatically more affected by the disease than other ethnic groups. In addition, given that one of every five health care dollars is spent on treating individuals with diabetes, this program is a smart investment.”

In a time when health care reform is a regular point of discussion this new legislation is intended to capitalize on the health needs of Native Americans and a nod to the improved health of this ethic group.

Collins added, “After more than a decade of investment, the Special Diabetes Program is making tangible improvements in the lives of Americans who are living with diabetes. It is also making significant progress toward a cure. Private organizations like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the American Diabetes Association are also doing their part to fund research, support patients and families, and spur the government on to do even more. As a consequence, we have seen some encouraging breakthroughs and the development of better treatments. We are on the threshold of a number of important new discoveries that may ultimately lead to cure. That is why it is critical that Congress extend funding for the Special Diabetes Program.”

The end result of the legislation would actually provide more funding to the SDPI program, “Since its inception in 1997, the Special Diabetes Program has funded significant Type 1 diabetes research as well as treatment initiatives targeted to American Indian and Alaska Native populations. The Dorgan-Collins reauthorization bill would provide each of these programs $200 million per year over the next five years.” The proposed increase amounts to $50 million more per year.

According to the Governmental Indian Affairs website the goal of the program is three-fold…

Community-Directed Diabetes Programs:  …[providing] funds to 333 IHS, Tribal, and Urban Indian health programs in 35 states to begin or enhance local diabetes treatment and prevention programs.

Demonstration Projects:  In 2004, Congress increased Special Diabetes Program for Indians funding to develop and implement projects.

Strengthening the Diabetes Data Infrastructure:  Strengthen[ing] the diabetes data infrastructure of the Indian health system by improving diabetes surveillance and evaluation capabilities and supporting the development and implementation of the IHS Electronic Health Record. (Source: IHS.org)