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Diabetes program funding for Native Americans finds some life

Native American health care advocates are breathing a little easier now that a crucial federal diabetes program has been funded – at least for the short term.

Temporary funding was secured for the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) after President Donald Trump singed a “continuing resolution” (CR) Sept. 27 that keeps the federal government operating while Congress works on appropriations issues for fiscal year 2020.

SDPI was set to lose funding on Sept. 30. The CR renewed not only SDPI, but several public health programs.

Congress now has until Nov. 21 to make the funding renewal a long term one.

The National Indian Health Board and other Native American advocacy groups have been pushing for SDPI funding and its long-term renewal for months.

The NIHB recently coordinated a postcard mailing campaign aimed at members of Congress at its 2019 National Tribal Health Conference in California in September.

The Senate and House versions of funding levels are similar. The Senate’s proposed legislation renews SDPI for five years at $150 million, the same level of funding as it’s seen each year since 2004. The House’s version would renew it at $150 million for four years.

The program is designed to assist Native Americans who have diabetes or are at risk of it.

Stakeholders site SDPI as a successful public health program that supports 301 grantees throughout Indian Country in diabetes prevention and treatment.

Since the program’s creation in 1997, supporters say it has helped to reduce the rate of end stage renal disease among Native American and Alaskan Natives by 54 percent.

In addition, a 2019 report from the Department of Health and Human Services said that SDPI saved Medicare up to $520 million over 10 years.

Diabetes programs are of particular importance to Native American communities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that Native Americans and Alaska Natives have a greater chance of getting diabetes than any other U.S. racial group.

With increased risk come greater health complications and higher health care costs.

The SDPI is one of two diabetes-related bills looking for long term funding in Congress. The other is the Special Diabetes Program or SDP. The fate of that bill’s extension was not known by press time.

SDP funds programs researching type-1 diabetes treatment. That bill would increase SDP funding to $200 million.

More information is at nihb.org.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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