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Diabetes on the Minds of Navajo Leaders

Diabetes on the Minds of Navajo Leaders
November 06
04:14 2017

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz – President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez strongly urge the United States Senate to support the reauthorization of the Special Diabetes Program for Indians to continue providing treatment and prevention services to Native Americans affected by diabetes.

“We appreciate the House for supporting our efforts to put an end to diabetes,” President Begaye said. “Without SDPI funding it will impact our fight against diabetes, not just for the Navajo Nation, but other tribes. Diabetes is one of the biggest issues our people face and we strongly encourage the Senate to pass the reauthorization bill as quickly as possible.”

On Friday, Nov. 3, the US House of Representatives passed the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to fund SDPI. The decision is regarded by the Office of the President and Vice President (OPVP) as a step in the right direction.

In order for the bill to become law, both the House and Senate need to reauthorize funding. At the moment, it is unclear whether or not SDPI is included with the Senate version of the CHIP legislation.

“There is a health and wellness movement on the Navajo Nation and the funding from SDPI has helped sustain this momentum,” Vice President Nez said. “We remain committed to empowering our people to fight modern-day monsters like diabetes and ask the Senate to do the same.”

According to the Indian Health Services (IHS) National Data Warehouse, the diabetes rate for youth has not increased in more than 10 years and the diabetes rate for adults has not increased since 2011.

These figures clearly demonstrate that SDPI is working and making a difference in the lives of Native Americans across the country.

Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States and affects Native Americans at a disproportionately high rate when compared to the rest of the country. It is a chronic disease that occurs when an individual does not have enough insulin. Without enough insulin, a person’s blood sugar becomes too high as glucose remains in the bloodstream and is unable to enter a person’s cells to produce energy.

Funding for SDPI was set to expire at the end of September, however, Congress voted to continue supporting the program temporarily for another three months.

Both President Begaye and Vice President Nez have advocated members of Congress to support permanent reauthorization because it would allow for continuity and give the Navajo Nation the ability to plan for long-term interventions and activities.

Today, there are more than 780,000 people across 35 states that utilize the SDPI funding annually. SDPI was originally passed by Congress in 1997 and it also funds the Navajo Special Diabetes Project (NSDP), which was established in June 1999.

There are currently eight NSDP service units around the Navajo Nation and it supports a number of diabetes prevention initiatives, including the annual Just Move It run/walks, educational cooking classes, wellness centers and more.

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